Police interview teen in connection to water tower vandalism

The affected North Bend Homes are still under a no drink order as Sallal runs further tests.

Sallal employees are flush and clean the water tank as they test for hazardous materials and coliform bacteria. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

Sallal employees are flush and clean the water tank as they test for hazardous materials and coliform bacteria. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

Police identified and interviewed a 14-year-old boy who they believe to be involved with the water tank vandalism in North Bend.

North Bend residents are still under a “do not drink” order after an unknown suspect vandalized a water tank on Oct. 30, potentially tainting the water. The juvenile suspect and his parents have been fully cooperative with investigation, saying the area is a favorite spot for youth to play air soft, King County Sheriff’s detectives said.

Detectives found that while the juvenile may have accessed the water tank numerous times, he may not have acted alone or even be responsible for the vandalism at all. County detectives released the juvenile and forwarded charges of Burglary and trespassing to Juvenile Court.

Detectives were on the scene again Tuesday to document the draining and cleaning of the tank. They found additional evidence that is currently being processed.

The tank serves 82 homes in the Riverpoint neighborhood along Mt. Si Road and Sallal Water Association recommends using bottled water for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice. Locals can still use tap water for bathing and washing clothing.

Sallal has offered to deliver bottled water donated by the Snoqualmie Tribe. The water is available at Sallal’s offices at 44021 Southeast Tanner Road, Suite E and inquires can be directed to info@sallal.com or 425-888-3650.

The Snoqualmie Tribe has donated bottled water for North Bend homes to use while they are under the no drink order. Sallal has offered to deliver the water to affected households. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

The Snoqualmie Tribe has donated bottled water for North Bend homes to use while they are under the no drink order. Sallal has offered to deliver the water to affected households. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

As of the Reporter’s Wednesday deadline, Sallal said it will inform affected households when the tests are concluded and water is safe to drink. The company said it anticipates resolving the problem as soon as the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) lifts the no drink order.

Following the vandalism, Sallal tested for 50 hazardous chemicals and received results on Saturday that indicated no contamination from those harmful substances, but tests confirmed the presence of coliform bacteria.

Sallal added that it’s possible the presence of coliform bacteria is related to the vandalism incident, but it has not been confirmed. DOH officials believe it is plausible that the vandal contributed to the contamination.

Coliform bacteria is an organism present in the soil, vegetation and feces of all warm-blooded animals. It will not likely cause illness, according to the DOH, but the presence of coliform bacteria may indicate there are other disease-causing organisms, or pathogens, in the water system, including E. coli.

There are three types of coliform bacteria highlighted by the DOH: total coliform bacteria, which is generally harmless, coming from the environment; fecal coliform bacteria, a sub-group of total coliform that would indicate recent fecal contamination; and E. coli a sub-group of fecal coliform that is mostly harmless, but has specific strains that cause the well-known illness.

The DOH notes that a presence of E. coli is likely not a dangerous strain but is still a health risk. The presence of any coliform bacteria can indicate a breach in the water system, meaning other harmful pathogens could be in the water. Sallal didn’t indicate what type of coliform bacteria was present in the vandalized tank and is continuing to test the water for different hazards.

“Testing drinking water for all possible pathogens is complex, time-consuming and expensive,” The DOH website states. “It is relatively easy and inexpensive to test for coliform bacteria. If coliform bacteria are found in a water sample, water system operators work to find the source of contamination and restore safe drinking water.”

Sallal extensively flushed and chlorinated the water tank under direction of the DOH last week, a standard procedure when decontaminating water systems for coliform bacteria. They’re continuing to clean the tank and test water samples from multiple access points as of Wednesday afternoon.

Sallal announced that they made repairs to the vandalized water tank on Nov. 3. They are still awaiting test results before lifting the no drink order. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

Sallal announced that they made repairs to the vandalized water tank on Nov. 3. They are still awaiting test results before lifting the no drink order. Photo courtesy of Sallal Water Association

Locals can read more about coliform bacteria at the DOH’s website. Additionally, Sallal is still testing other water samples for hazardous chemicals with results expected to arrive Monday or Tuesday.

“Sallal complies with the Department of Health regulations regarding routinely sampling its water distribution system per the Association’s Coliform Monitoring Plan,” Sallal stated in a press release.

After the vandalism suspect reportedly broke into the water tank site, authorities found white pellets that turned out to be biodegradable airsoft BBs. Sallal stated they have made security enhancements at the site and the majority of repairs were made on Nov. 3.

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