Tiny Columbia River town confronts big drinking water problem

The 220 Benton County residents who rely on the Plymouth Water District for drinking water have a big problem.
In the spring, when irrigation systems activate near the community’s well, nitrate levels rise, like clockwork.
This year, they’re on track to exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s 10-parts-per-million standard for drinking water by June, making 2017 the third summer Plymouth has had to turn to bottled water.
In 2016, the Washington state Department of Health issued a “Do Not Drink” order from June to October for the tiny unincorporated community across the Columbia River from Umatilla.
The district spends about $27,000 per summer on bottled water.
Plymouth draws its drinking water from a deep well drilled in 1922 near a railroad track.
The district has secured a low-interest loan from the state health department but even that brings a significant rate hike.
Delgado theorizes the casing has failed due to age and vibration.
In theory, irrigation water from a nearby farm is seeping in through the cracked casing.
It would go into service in November 2018, meaning Plymouth faces at least two more summers of buying bottled water for its customers.

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