Nearly four years ago, the city of Airway Heights discovered its water was contaminated by firefighting chemicals used at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base. Now, the city is asking the state of Washington to pitch in for a new source of clean drinking water.
Airway Heights needs about $22 million for a new water system. City Manager Albert Tripp says construction can begin late next year, but first he has to find the money. Tripp said the city’s $16 million request in the state’s capital budget is a key piece of that funding.
“A solution could come about as quickly as 18 months as opposed to spending another three years with this temporary solution we have in place which costs us, it costs the community and it costs taxpayers $1.3 million each year.”
Airway Heights is currently using water provided by the City of Spokane. They say that temporary fix has cost them about $4 million to date.
The Washington State Legislature is nearing the end of its legislative session and the State House has included the funds in its capital budget proposal, but the Senate has not.
Airway Heights has sued the Air Force to recoup damages caused by the contamination, but resolving that could take years. Tripp said clean water is an urgent need that should be provided now.
“Water is the lifeblood to any community, without it, it’s difficult to have many of the opportunities that exist within a city take place.”
He said it will be difficult for the city to develop commerce, affordable housing, or a sense of public trust, and safety without a long-term supply of clean drinking water. He, and the city are urging community members to contact their legislators and ask them to allocate money for a new water supply.