The Threat to Portland’s Drinking Water

  • While it was concentrating on lobbying the EPA in favor of wasteful public-works contracts, Portland City Hall delayed simple, low-cost public health measures for the Bull Run water system such as the installation of safety shutoff valves.
  • Portland City Hall’s self-imposed hasty reservoir burial schedule has prevented timely validation of safety equipment.
  • Portland’s hasty reservoir construction schedule has resulted in CH2M Hill’s subcontractor releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of chlorinated water into Johnson Creek, potentially endangering the watershed, and costing Portland water rate payers $40,800 in DEQ fines.
  • Buried reservoirs have a known history of causing human deaths from Salmonella bacteria.
  • Buried reservoirs are not aerated, and thus incubate anaerobic bacteria indefinitely.
  • Buried water tanks allow radon to accumulate, and inhibit the breakdown of harmful disinfection byproducts.
  • In comparison, Portland’s open reservoirs have had no public health incidents in their 100+ years of operation.
  • Likewise, the open reservoir system in New York City has been free of public health incidents in its 100+ years of operation; and New York City readily succeeded in obtaining the EPA’s promise to reconsider LT2 by 2016, and EPA’s permission to stop working on reservoir burial in the meantime.
  • Portland’s Bull Run water quality is higher than New York City’s, having earned Portland the only pre-treatment variance the EPA has granted any municipality since adopting LT2.
  • While publicly pledging to “fight” against reservoir burial, Portland City Council has buried, in its contracts with CH2M Hill, provisions that could blend pristine water from the protected Bull Run reservoirs with water from the Willamette River–which is tainted by sewage overflows, industrial pollution and storm water runoff–and with the Columbia River–which is subject to contamination from the Hanford Nuclear Test Site / Superfund site, as well as coliform bacteriophage discharges from the Carollo ultraviolet-equipment-validation facility.  A “blending station” is currently under construction at Powell Butte.
  • Following lobbying efforts by pro-underground-tank engineering interests, the EPA ignored its scientific panel’s advice about open aeration as the best mitigation measure for eliminating radon from drinking water, and scrapped its congressional mandate to protect the public from radon in drinking water.
  • In 2011 Portland’s backup drinking water source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, began showing signs of radon contamination above the EPA’s draft action levels. After two consecutive years of acknowledged radon contamination in the Columbia South Shore Well Field, the Portland Water Bureau removed that contaminant from the list of items it reports.
  1. Who Is Joe Glicker?
  2. Joe Glicker and Lisa Obermeyer
  3. The Push to Change Federal Regulations
  4. Potential Conflict of Interest by Public Officials
  5. The Rush to Complete Lucrative Contract Work Before LT2 Is Reconsidered
  6. The Threat to Portland’s Drinking Water
  7. At What Cost?