AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. - The contaminated wells in Airway Heights has the staff at the Airway Heights Corrections Center scrambling to find a safe water supply for their inmates.
Doctors and scientists are mostly concerned about the health of people who have been drinking this contaminated water for years. That certainly includes offenders doing long prison terms at the Airway Heights Corrections Center.
And that's why prison officials wasted little time shutting down drinking fountains and finding an alternative water supply for their inmates.
“As soon as we got the information that the city water had been contaminated, we immediately opened up our incident command post that has happened within 30 minutes of the phone call,” said Mike Rainville, Airway Heights Correction Officer.
The Corrections center is like a small city.
2,200 inmates live there, and while the institution can make its own power, to keep the prison locked up and lit up during emergencies, it relies on the city of Airway Heights for it's water supply.
That's why the DOC has started buying bottled water by the truck full.
There was an initial 40,000 bottle delivery, which was distributed out to the institution and affected areas very, very rapidly.
Inmates can still shower, but since they're dependent on bottled water, their kitchen will face some cooking challenges.
Anything that's been produced with contaminated water we are removing from the food stream.
And while some people may wonder why the prison is pulling out the stops to guard the health of inmates during a short-term crisis, corrections officials say that's an important part of their job.
“We have an obligation to the incarcerated population for their well-being,” Rainville said. “We have an obligation to provide them with clean drinking water, good clean, edible food, and a place to stay.”
Providing safe drinking water for the offenders who are locked up there is more than just the humane thing to do. If prisoners thought they were being forced to drink something that wasn't good for them, it could have a very negative impact on the way they behave behind bars.
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