Portland Opposes a Federal Rule due to a “Unique Water Source”

by |April 28, 2011

As detailed in an opinion article written by Portland, Oregon’s City Commissioner Randy Leonard, for the past 7 years, the Portland Water Bureau has been attempting to challenge Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, or LT2.  LT2, is a federal rule mandating that drinking water be treated for Cryptosporidium and that open reservoirs are covered.

Bull Run Watershed

The Bull Run Watershed provides a large portion of Portland with water and has so far tested negative for Cryptosporidium. Source: The Oregonian

The United States Environmental protection agency states that the purpose of this rule is to “reduce disease incidence associated with Cryptosporidium and other disease-causing microorganisms in drinking water”.   Although LT2 was not final until 2006, as early as 2004 the Portland City council opposed measures necessitating the covering of open reservoirs and the building of a treatment plant.

The cause of the controversy is what City Commissioner Leonard describes as Portland’s “unique water source”.  The water of the Bull Run Watershed that supplies Portland’s residents with water is naturally caught and filtered.  Recently, extensive testing took place and there was not a single instance of Cryptosporidium detected.  An article by residents Kelly Campbell and Kent Craford in the Oregonian notes that the Portland Water Bureau recently announced a $500 million program to protect the water supply and points out the absurdity of this plan since no cryptosporidium was found.

However, David Shaff of the Water Bureau pointed out that federal rules still require Portland to obey LT2, even though their water source already meets standards.  As a result, despite continued efforts to be exempt from the requirements of LT2, the Portland Water Bureau had no choice but to comply with federal law.  Shaff also stated that although pursuing an “extended compliance time frame” as suggested by Campbell and Craford would better, it is not an option for the city since they have “no legal or technical basis on which to [request it]”.  He additionally stated that further delays would only cost the taxpayers more money as a result of fines from the federal government.

A large part of the reason that residents feel extra strongly about the spending plan, aside from the fact that the water has already tested negative for Cryptosporidium, is that their water bills are already extremely high and set to double in the next five years. As a result, treatments to eliminate a parasite of which there is no indication, seems even more superfluous.  Although noting the long term benefit of covering open reservoirs which would be a part of program, many ask whether certain parts could be postponed in order to save taxpayers already struggling in the current economy.

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