The cause of the contaminated water at the new William Beaumont Army Medical Center in East El Paso appears to have been found and the water system is being repaired, officials said Tuesday afternoon.
A valve failure in the hospital’s water softener system appears to have put brine, or salt water, into the water system, causing ‘limited piping corrosion’, which led to the contamination and discoloration of water by sediment, officials said in a news release.
Meanwhile, the hospital reopened its emergency department for trauma patients on Monday and again allowed elective surgeries using bottled water and having surgical instruments disinfected at another hospital in El Paso, Beaumont officials reported.
Elective surgeries had been canceled and trauma patients transferred to other hospitals since April 7, after it was determined that the water system had been contaminated with sediment.
It’s the latest problem to plague the $1.5 billion Fort Bliss Army Hospital complex. It opened in July after several years of construction problemsresulting in millions of dollars in cost overruns.
Hospital staff and maintenance engineers are working to remove brine corrosion from affected water system components and repair the system, officials said Tuesday afternoon.
Once the system is repaired, a high velocity directional flush of the system is scheduled to flush sediment and any other debris from the system.
After the flush is complete, the water in the system will be tested to confirm that the water quality has returned to normal, the press release said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, officials still did not know when the water system would be back to normal, a hospital spokesperson said.
The water system problem was first detected on March 25 in a department. But on April 6, test results revealed the contamination was hospital-wide.
Tests also determined the system had no sewage and no pathogens or biological contamination, officials said. The hospital’s external water supply from El Paso Water was not contaminated.
The 135-bed hospital, with an average daily census of 50-60 patients, is part of a gigantic complex, which includes clinical buildings and a research center. It is located on the grounds of Fort Bliss at Spur 601 and Loop 375.
On April 6, Beaumont’s commanding officer, Army Colonel Brett Venable, determined that the hospital’s water was not potable or suitable for sterilizing equipment.
The hospital provided bottled water to patients and staff for drinking and other uses, and had equipment sterilized initially at a dental clinic in Fort Bliss and later at a hospitals campus in Providence. .
The hospital continued to treat patients and operate its emergency room for non-trauma patients.