Fort Bliss Hospital Back to Receiving Trauma Patients Despite Water Woes

The William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
The William Beaumont Army Medical Center is a 1.1 million square-foot facility with 10 operating rooms, 269 exam rooms, 30 primary and specialty clinics. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers image by Randy Cephus)

Officials at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, Texas, believe a faulty valve in the hospital's softener system was responsible for sediment in the water that has shut down the facility's supply for nearly two weeks.

According to a news release Tuesday from the post's public affairs office, a valve failure introduced salt -- used to remove minerals from hard water -- into the system, causing corrosion to the pipes that resulted in discoloration and sediment in the drinking water supply.

Tests conducted last week showed no presence of biological hazards or pathogens. Officials had declared the water unsafe to drink on April 7 until a cause for the sediment was found. As a precaution, they halted some hospital services, including trauma admissions to the emergency department, elective surgeries and on-site equipment sterilization.

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In response to the equipment failure, staff and engineers are "working to remove the brine corrosion from the affected water system components" and ordering replacement parts to repair the problem, according to the release.

Once all components are inspected, the system will be flushed to remove remaining debris and the water will be tested to ensure that it is safe to consume.

To offset the need for consumable water in the facility, officials have distributed bottled water to all clinical and administrative areas, provided portable hand washing and eyewash stations throughout the hospital, and are sending equipment to a nearby dental clinic for sterilization.

Hospital employees first noticed debris in the water in one department on March 25 and thought the problem was limited to that section. Later hospital-wide testing found, however, that the sediment was in other locations at the facility.

The $1.3 billion medical center, which opened to patients nine months ago, is the Defense Health Agency's newest, most expensive hospital. It serves thousands of patients with 30 specialty clinics, 10 operating rooms, and an emergency department and trauma center.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed the project, which was designed by HDR Inc., a Nebraska-based architectural firm, and built by Clark McCarthy Healthcare Partners II, a joint venture between Clark Construction in Bethesda, Maryland, and McCarthy Building Companies in St. Louis.

William Beaumont officials have established a website for patients to receive updates on the water advisory.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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