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I first learned about “Darcy’s law” when I arrived at the Portland Water Bureau four years ago. I had studied marine biology in college, but somehow hydrogeology and groundwater had never intrigued me.
Pat Easley, a senior engineer in the groundwater group, was happy to explain how the law helps calculate the porosity or permeability of the ground that groundwater flows through. While Pat doesn’t use this info on a daily basis, it is a key calculation when establishing a new well field.
Darcy’s law is likely irrelevant to your daily life, but water is essential.
As a new writer for the Water Blog, I’ll share the many stories behind your tap water. I plan to bring diverse perspectives from the bureau to explain why they care about their work and why you should too. I’ll also bring stories from across the country and around the globe to remind you of just how lucky we are to have such fresh flowing water.
I'm a personal fan Portland’s water. I slurp, shower, and sprinkle our water with gratitude. My enthusiasm isn’t diminished in the face of bureaucratic frustrations like LT2, because I have confidence that a bureau with such a deep history of providing Portland’s water will be able to meet any challenge. Our crews will repair 2 a.m. main breaks and our resource protection team will protect and restore the watershed. Even our finance staff will work diligently to figure out how to keep rates as low as possible. In short, we all do our best every day to provide clean, cold, cheap and constant water to you.
I hope you will continue to use the Water Blog as a source of information and connection. With any luck, you will gain a better understanding of the human equation of water.
Did you know about Darcy's law?
Senior Community Outreach Representative
The public is invited to attend the Portland Water Bureau and Mt. Hood National Forest Bull Run working group meeting on Friday, October 28, 2011, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM at the Mt. Hood National Forest Headquarters located at 16400 Champion Way in Sandy, Oregon.
Under the terms of a 20-year agreement between the Portland Water Bureau and Mt.Hood National Forest, staff engaged in the management of the Bull Run watershed, Portland’s primary drinking water source, will meet semi-annually each year.
The purpose of these meetings is to review work plans, budgets and staff assignments; and communicate accomplishments and issues addressed during the course of management activities. An annual report is presented at the spring meetings.
Sr. Community Outreach & Information Representative
One of the biggest training challenges many water bureau staff have is the age old dilemma that “you don’t know, what you don’t know.” Staff is rightfully specialized in a myriad of fields, and it’s often difficult to see the connections and importance of each piece in the system. The bureau’s SOAKED training gives employees the chance to meet people from different work groups, take field trips to construction sites, and learn about the many roles and responsibilities that make up the Portland Water Bureau.
Last autumn I had the opportunity to “get SOAKED”, and I likened it to water bureau grad school. I learned about virtually all aspects of the bureau, and realized just how complex and interrelated our work truly is.
SOAKED is a nifty acronym for Sharing Our Assets and Knowledge for Employee Development. The training program is an opportunity for staff from diverse fields to learn together about what it takes to supply Portland’s water: protect, treat, supply, budget, engineer, build, fix…
Here are some quotes from participants about what they learned:
§ “SOAKED provided an opportunity to explore and understand different departments within the Portland Water Bureau. For a customer service representative, this was a unique learning opportunity that provided background information for day to day operations.”
§ “As a customer service representative, we receive questions and concerns ranging over all departments of the Water Bureau. This program helped me identify specific scenarios in the field and will help me relate customer’s concern effectively within our bureau.”
§ “I did not realize how many departments and functions existed that are necessary to the Water Bureau’s ability to provide water and its services. I realized that none of the functions were more important than another, nor can any one department function without the other.”
§ “When talking with managers or looking at budget/expenditures on certain items – I now have a much better understanding of what each work group does, which will also help me help these managers create their budget and track expenditures to see if they are correct and accurate.”
§ “It will help me communicate more efficiently with other departments and understand how the bureau operates.”
§ “The breadth of information that I gained about the bureau and the jobs people do will translate to a higher degree of quality I can apply in my work.”
Kudos to Sara Maier, Senior Engineering Associate in Operations, for leading this successful round of SOAKED training!
Sr. Community Outreach Representative
Portland Water Bureau customers are increasingly becoming familiar with a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water requirement known as the LT2 rule.
The rule requires that water systems with uncovered
finished water reservoirs, like those at Portland’s Mt.Tabor and Washington parks, either cover the reservoirs or provide treatment at the outlets of the reservoirs to either remove or inactive Cryptosporidium and other viruses. The rule states that no variance is available.
The City pursued guidance from the EPA and the state
of Oregon on how to secure a variance/waiver to maintain the open reservoirs, and was told that no variance was possible.
Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer (NY) requested that the EPA reconsider the requirement to coverNew York’s Hillsdale Reservoir. He received a reply from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stating that different reservoirs around the country have different specific conditions and protections that may have a bearing on the public health benefits of the LT2 coverage requirement and that the agency would review the LT2 rule. A few days later, Commissioner Randy Leonard made a request to Senator Merkley to assist in the identification of cost-effective alternative compliance options.
Today, the Portland Water Bureau received a copy of a letter signed by Oregon’s congressional delegation asking the EPA to include an assessment of Portland’s drinking water system, and for the review team to thoroughly explore whether there are more cost-effective ways to counter the risks of contaminated water, given the unique characteristics of the Bull Run watershed and other attributes of Portland’s drinking water system.
Also today the Portland Water Bureau received a reply from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) regarding the City’s request for a suspension to the schedule for taking the open reservoirs off-line in order to seek alternative methods of compliance. OHA has primacy for enforcing the LT2 rule. OHA is waiting for guidance on this issue from the EPA and will respond to the City’s request once that guidance has been received and reviewed.
The Portland Water Bureau posts correspondence on LT2 as soon as it is received, check the LT2 webpages for occasional updates.
Sr. Community Outreach & Information Representative
On top of historic Benson Bubblers, the bureau’s grounds maintenance crew is responsible for keeping several public drinking water fountains across the city flowing. So, the crew was a bit miffed to find that vandals had busted out the bubbler and yanked the supply line on a stone fountain at 57th and Sandy. Despite the hassle, Pat Green and Jeremy Nold were able to “fish” a new supply line and get the fountain flowing again the same day. Great teamwork guys!
I’ve never heard of this particular fountain, or of Chas. B. Merrick. How did this fountain end up at 57th & Sandy?
A local blogger/photographer was also intrigued and did a fair bit of research to find out Merrick’s story. Apparently Merrick was a pillar of the community and died at the young age of 39 on a trip out to eastern Oregon, cause of death unknown. Merrick wore many hats in his short life: Spanish American War vet, grocer, and insurance executive. He was also a postmaster and behind some of the first attempts to fly airmail from Portland to Vancouver WA.
The blogger couldn’t ever quite find out who built the fountain, but we know the current scoop. Over a hundred years later, Portlanders enjoy slurps of Bull Run while going about their lives and water bureau crews are still working to keep the water flowing.
Sr. Community Outreach Representative