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Reservoir Demonstration at Mt. Tabor Park Expected to be Peaceful

By Lindsay Wochnick 27 Comments

City bureaus encourage demonstrators to be good stewards
of one of Portland’s historic parks and the City’s drinking water.

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and the Portland Water Bureau expect a peaceful, unpermitted demonstration today, July 12, at the city’s historic Mt. Tabor Park, located at SE 60th Avenue and SE Salmon Street.  The bureaus are aware that demonstrators plan to gather at 5:00 p.m.

Demonstrators are concerned about a federal mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that requires the City of Portland to cover its drinking water reservoirs to protect against any contamination.

Since 2006, the City has repeatedly sought to delay or avoid the EPA’s Long-Term Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) mandate, but a federal court and the Oregon Health Authority have consistently rejected these appeals. Faced with a lack of further legal options and with deadlines looming, the City is moving forward with compliance, which includes disconnecting the Mt. Tabor open-air reservoirs once new enclosed reservoirs at Powell Butte and Kelly Butte are completed. The deadline to disconnect the Mt. Tabor reservoirs is December 31, 2015.  A June 2013 statement with more information on the City’s fight against LT2 can be found here.

“We welcome people who wish to assemble peacefully and exercise their first amendment rights,” stated Mayor Charlie Hales.  “We ask that demonstrators who come to Mt. Tabor to express their views also respect the park and follow park rules, so that everyone can enjoy it safely.

“I want to be clear that the City’s primary responsibility must be to protect the safety of our drinking water.  The water in Mt. Tabor’s open reservoirs goes directly to half of Portland’s households, and we will take all necessary steps to keep it safe.”

Portland Parks & Recreation is responsible for the protection and public enjoyment of our parks.  The Parks Bureau and Portland police have reached out to organizers of the planned demonstration.  While organizers have refused to secure a permit for the event, the demonstration is expected to be peaceful.  Portland Parks & Recreation will be educating demonstrators on park rules and good stewardship of our public land and its vegetation.  Mt. Tabor Park opens at 5:00 a.m. and closes at 12:00 a.m.

“Portland Parks & Recreation and the members of the City Council support free speech activities,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz.  “Those activities must be balanced with every Portlander’s right to access clean and safe parks in every neighborhood including Mt. Tabor. 

“PP&R is the steward of these public lands and it is our responsibility to protect the park and its natural areas. I am hoping for a peaceful event where people exercise their right to free expression mindful of the need to maintain our parks and water resources for the benefit of all Portlanders. I ask that demonstrators respect the special day for the couples holding weddings in the park this weekend. I hope Mt. Tabor Park, with its historic reservoirs and magnificent views, will continue to be a great location for weddings and other events for many generations to come.”

PP&R asks all visitors to help us to be good stewards of the park by adhering to applicable rules including but not limited to:

  • No camping (City Code 14A.50.020)
  • No structures are allowed without a permit (City Code 14A.50.050 and 20.12.080)
  • Properly dispose of any trash (City Code 20.12.090)
  • Protect the park and park vegetation (City Code 20.12.100)
  • Keep your dogs on-leash except in designated off-leash areas; please dispose of dog waste properly (City Code 20.12.140)
  • Protect Portland’s drinking water supply; do not throw or deposit anything into any of the reservoirs (City Code 14A.50.130)

Please adhere to park hours. No one shall be allowed in Mt. Tabor Park during the hours of park closure; the park will be closed from 12:01 a.m.(midnight) to 5:00 a.m. (City Code 20.12.210)

Please direct any questions about the reservoirs to Tim Hall, Public Information Manager, at, or call 503-823-6926. 

Please direct any park related questions to Mark Ross, Public Information Officer at


Add a Comment


Mark Behnke

July 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Just cover them the price to do so just keeps going up. Let those who want the fancy reflecting pools after there buried pay for the cost to do so and pay for the up keep. I for one don't want to pay for them. Put the resievours under ground and be done with it.



July 12, 2013 at 8:55 PM

Covering the reservoirs creates health risks and is an unnecessary and incredibly costly expense, something Portlanders can afford. Our gravity fed water system is an engineering marvel, and our reservoirs have worked successfully for over 100 years, bringing pristine water to urban dwellers. It's irresponsible to bury or cover the reservoirs. Please read more about this at and here is another article

"Friends of the Reservoirs has expressed concerns that covered reservoirs may actually pose a greater health hazard than open ones, noting that, Multnomah County Health "acknowledges that science is lacking with regard to open reservoirs stating that literature addresses the potential for adverse health outcomes from uncovered storage. However, a substantially larger volume of literature documents not only the same potential problems with covered storage, but also more importantly documents actual public health illness and deaths only with covered storage. EPA documents unique public health risks only with covered storage, cancer-causing nitrification."



July 12, 2013 at 9:49 PM

The city never asked for a waiver. I do not feel a need to drink willamette water. And have radon and other chemicals in my water. And yes the public protest was great lots of support from the community. Now leave our water alone.


Joe Walsh

July 12, 2013 at 11:28 PM

This department will be under investigation for some time and all of you who are found to be involved in this sham will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The cost to the rate payers will come back to haunt you in the coming years, may all you who conspired to defraud the people of Portland find the deepest, darkest hole to hide, because we will find you and bring all of you before the bar of Justice.


Mark Behnke

July 13, 2013 at 9:59 AM

So about 300 of a city of approx 1/2 a million show up to protest the covering of the reservoirs, seems likes a lopsided victory for the other 499,700 residents that want them covered. The Water Bureau did ask for the variance and they did not get it so they must be covered. So just do it at the lowest cost to the rate payers.

The 300 liberal protesters at last nights protest are more than likely the same 300 liberals that would be the first finger pointers if by not covering them caused people to get sick.



July 13, 2013 at 10:38 AM

The combined show of force by police the evening of July 12, 2013, for a peaceful demonstration at Mt. Tabor Park was excessive and obscene. Portland taxpayers demand that the City of Portland provide the following information immediately:

--> How much money was wasted on that military-style exercise involving at least 100 armed officers in tactical gear, scores of armored vehicles and ATVs, helicopters, and camera-planes?

The press release above is correct about anticipating a peaceful demonstration on July 12, 2013, but full of lies about federal EPA water regulations. Portland taxpayers demand that the City of Portland provide the following documents immediately:

--> The voluntary fast-track compliance schedule to bury the reservoirs that the City has provided to EPA.

--> All official requests to EPA for an LT2 rule "WAIVER". No more shell games with the words "variance", "deferral", "exemption" or anything else.

--> The total amount of public money spent to date on revenue bond measures and construction contracts issued for water burial on an "emergency" basis without taxpayer approval.

Portland Taxpayers may follow progress on getting the government to respond to these simple requests at


Mark Behnke

July 13, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Portland Water , May and others why is it that you are not willing to identify your selves?



July 13, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Mayor Hales- We are peaceful protesters protesting city hall’s decision to destroy our MT Tabor reservoirs. We are children, elderly, and disabled, Moms, Dads, brothers and sisters. Most of us are lifelong residents of Portland Oregon. We as citizens demand a waiver to save our reservoirs and drinking water. I realize many of your friends are in line to get some very good contracts for this. We watched you and your friends as you tried to destroy our water with fluoride. Now this! We also find it hard to comprehend when out of town people come in to destroy our water. We protest to save our water. You may not know it or care but we have the best drinking water in the world we get it from BULL RUN. So Mayor do not be afraid we are just doing what we always do. Protecting our water for generations to come. Get the Waiver Hales. Do it for the people of Portland that you are supposed to be representing.


Mark Behnke

July 13, 2013 at 2:59 PM

May still wont fully identify your self why not? As for being a resident of Portland I have been here 63 years. Water from a closed storage facility is much safer and less prone to contamination. That why the EPA has adapted the rules that water can't be stored in open storage sites. It is inevitable that they will need to be covered. Get on with it before the cost more than doubles again.


Kenric Ashe

July 13, 2013 at 11:43 PM

Mark, if it's so inevitable, why have the mayors of NYC and Rochester been working with NY Senator Schumer and both cities have already been successful in getting deferrals more than long enough to wait for the EPA's final ruling on waivers in 2016? You need to do a lot more research before you make misinformed statements. This fake sense of urgency is exactly what the global engineering corporations (MWH, CH2M Hill, and HDR) want you to believe.



July 14, 2013 at 12:08 AM

The uncovered reservoirs have been safe and reliable for over 100 years. Perfectly, healthy, safe water. Look into the documented health risks of covered or buried reservoirs.

The cost? 400 Million. At least.


Mark Behnke

July 14, 2013 at 9:50 AM

There are arguments both ways covered or uncovered. It will depend on who,is reading what,who wrote and conducted the research. After working in the water industry for 25 years I can tell you uncovered poses the biggest risk to public health . These reserviors are more than 100 years old and it's time to replace them to carry them into the next 100 years as they won't last another years.

Not one off the 300


Lindsay Wochnick

July 15, 2013 at 8:58 AM

Sadly, there's a lot of false and misleading claims being posted on the web. There's NO health risk from covered reservoirs. NO risk from Radon. Portland has a number of underground water tanks around the city, including on top of Mt. Tabor and at Powell Butte. There will be NO blending of Willamette River water with Bull Run water. NO plans for future privatization or corporate takeover of public water system.

The City will comply with federal drinking water regulations to guard against any contamination to protect public health.

Public Information
Portland Water Bureau



July 15, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Mark, thank you for disclosing that you have worked in the water industry for 25 years. And for acknowledging that there are arguments both ways.

The primary case for modern open reservoirs is that drinking water microbiologists firmly assert that fresh air and sunlight are more effective against microorganisms than chemical and artificial treatment Open reservoirs also cost less, are easier and more frequently cleaned, and unlike covered reservoirs, have caused no illness or death due to tainted drinking water. Open reservoirs prevail in the risk/benefit analysis: they produce Zero (0) parts per million (PPM) of toxic chemical residues in drinking water.

These are some of the clear reasons why New York City was able to obtain a deferral in anticipation of a full waiver by 2016 -- their elected representatives acted in good faith on behalf of constituents.

Mark, regarding the age of the open reservoirs: they were built to last. They are repeatedly and regularly surveyed and there are no structural, seismic, or security concerns. Newer is not better, as Seattle can verify with their recently-built buried reservoirs that are cracked and leaking. This whole issue is being driven by lobbyists for multinational engineering firms using scare tactics about invisible microorganisms to continue gorging on government contracts. And the City of Portland has a well-known history of colluding with spend-and-build developers!

With the costs and stakes as high as they are, Portland Taxpayers are entitled to full disclosure from City officials about their backroom dealings with multinational engineering firms to pay out hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fix something that's not broken-- and in fact will seriously undermine our drinking water quality.

Portland Taxpayers demand that the City of Portland produce the following documents immediately:

--> The voluntary fast-track compliance schedule to bury the reservoirs that the City of Portland submitted to EPA.

--> All official City of Portland requests to EPA for an LT2 rule "WAIVER". No more shell games with the words "variance", "deferral", "exemption" or anything else.

--> The total amount of public money spent to date on revenue bond measures and construction contracts issued for water burial on an "emergency" basis without taxpayer approval.

Portland Taxpayers may follow progress on getting the government to respond to these simple requests at



July 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Ms. Wochnick,

What is the City of Portland's response to Portland Taxpayers' request for the following documents?

--> The voluntary fast-track compliance schedule to bury the reservoirs that the City of Portland submitted to EPA.

--> All official City of Portland requests to EPA for an LT2 rule "WAIVER" -- not requests for a "variance", "deferral", "exemption", or anything else except a "WAIVER".

--> The total amount of public money spent to date on revenue bond measures and construction contracts issued for water burial on an "emergency" basis without taxpayer approval.


Hart Noecker

July 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Read more here:

'A showdown is about to happen on Mt Tabor. Activists and neighborhood organizers are preparing to set up Camp Cascadia in protest of city hall’s failure to secure an LT2 waiver to the costly mandated burying of Portland’s historic water reservoirs. According to organizers, this protest is about far more than the just the reservoirs themselves. This is about the quality of the Bull Run tap water, this is about citizen rights to the city itself, and this is about the potential privatization of our entire regional water supply. There is much at stake.'


Mark behnke

July 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Portland Water , when will you step up and give us your real name ? You seem to be hiding something as well. If you want everyone to be honest do so by not using a pen name.


Katherin Kirkpatrick

July 15, 2013 at 12:41 PM

"The City's primary responsibility must be to protect the safety of our drinking water."

Oh really? Well then, why don't you do just that, City of Portland?

Instead, City officials and their richly paid engineering consultants have lobbied the EPA for years, and downright begged it to pass this unscientific and wasteful LT2 regulation, which has nothing to do with water safety and everything to do with drumming up business for powerful engineering firms who happen to have with close friends in City Hall.

And now that the EPA has realized the cupidity of LT2, and is likely to overturn it by 2016, the City is in a hurry to shove this project down Portland's throat regardless of the costs and risks.

City of Portland officials disingenuously pretended that their hands are tied, when in fact THEY THEMSELVES crafted the rush 2016 compliance schedule that hurries to bury the reservoirs before the EPA gets rid of this junk law.

The City of Portland could easily preserve our pristine Bull Run water and save it from the anaerobic stagnation, radon accumulation, etc., that will occur in the storage tanks and blending stations being built by these buddies of City Hall:


(A) Demand that your elected officials withdraw their bogus rush-to-bury-before-LT2-is-overturned-in-2016 "compliance schedule" and submit a new one, with a post-LT2 date, like the cities in New York did.


(B) Enjoy paying in excess of $1 billion in sweetheart deals to City Hall's friends at CH2M Hill, HDR and MWH, just for the privilege of drinking compromised water.


One of the MANY Mt. Tabor neighbors who is NOT fooled.



July 16, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Lindsay--A few weeks ago I read a document on the PWB site that showed construction plans for 6 "blending stations" that would potentially blend Willamette and/or Columbia river water with Bull Run water in order to sell more water to more people. That document has been removed from the PWB site. Do you have official word then that these construction plans have been scrapped? I was able to find the MWH document from 2000 that discusses this plan as an "emergency" option. I would like to know that this is officially off the table.

Also, how do you defend the following statement regarding radon gas exposure?
"Radon is a big problem in Portland as was recently reported by Scott Learn of the Oregonian. Radon levels are high in the Columbia South Shore Well Field (CSSWF), Portland's lower-quality backup supply. If the open reservoirs are eliminated Radon from the CSSWF will vent into homes, schools and businesses every time you use water to shower, drink, wash clothes, or any purpose when the Well Field is used to supply water."

These are huge concerns for me as a 15 year Portland resident. I love the quality of our water and that we have amazing open reservoirs that function much better and are much safer than what's being proposed. The water is not dead, why bury it? Seattle has had big issues with their underground system built by MWH, they have had cracks and structural issues since switching to the underground tanks. It seems reasonable to pressure OHA to extend the deadline until after the EPA review--this burial project is costly, unnecessary, and potentially harmful to my health. The current system is none of these things. Please, let's work together to save the amazing reservoirs and our amazing water. We deserve clean, healthy, water!!!


Kenric Ashe

July 16, 2013 at 10:19 PM

Friends of the Reservoirs' June 21 response to the Oregon Health Authority is a powerful document:

Considering that the City's convenient capitulation to OHA was dated June 3, PLUS the fact that the EPA has already granted deferrals to NYC and Rochester, NY and the final decision on waivers won't be until 2016, this is exactly what we should be shoving in their faces as proof that they don't have grounds for standing down. I'm so sick and tired of politicians and corrupt public health officials playing The Game. This is supposed to be about Science, not revolving door profits!


Kenric Ashe

July 16, 2013 at 10:21 PM

Mark Behnke how about you address the issues instead of being obsessed with identities?


Kenric Ashe

July 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM


Portland Water Bureau's 2013 Drinking Water Quality Report does not include radon levels. I verified that radon was included in 2012. PWB does not have previous years currently available online as far as I can see, but I did find a blog entry on discussing how the radon level was 145 pCi/L in 2009 and jumped up to 310 in 2010. And I see that it increased again to 370 in 2011. Where is it at now? Well, WE DON'T KNOW!

It's important to observe the small print:

  • Results are only from the entry point for the Columbia South Shore Well Field

So maybe it's not so bad after all since the wells are only used on the infrequent days when turbidity is high in Bull Run due to strong winds.

But we still don't know exactly how much radon exposure we're getting. No big deal? Well consider that exposure to this invisible, odorless, and radioactive gas is the 2nd leading cause of cancer after cigarette smoking, and one of the most comprehensive U.S. radon studies by Dr. R. William Field et al found a 50% increased lung cancer risk even at the protracted exposures at the EPA's action level of 4 pCi/L. That's right, the last known level of exposure from our well water was 92.5 times the EPA's action level.

Without proper testing we're also left to merely speculate on how much radon we might be exposed to from the Powell Butte reservoir being underground. I'm glad that my tap water comes from Mt Tabor (presumably since I live at the bottom of it), because uncovered reservoirs allow the radon to escape relatively harmlessly into the atmosphere, but are there people who get their water directly from Powell Butte? Again, I don't know, and I don't like it when there are so many unanswered questions and potential profit-motivated conflict of interest. How many times must we deal with this?

I'm not finding any media reports about this, so I guess it's time to do the media's job again. I have sent the following email to PWB and I suggest you all do the same!

Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2013 06:11:55 -0700
Subject: Why was radon not included in the 2013 report?

Why was radon not included in the 2013 drinking water quality report? And why were previous radon levels in the Columbia wells so high and why have they been increasing each year?

July 16 Update: Still no reply from PWB.



Kenric Ashe

July 16, 2013 at 10:32 PM

"During the 10-year period of construction and repair, the price of water from Tampa Bay Water (TBW) has almost doubled, even though a successful water conservation program reduced the overall use of water throughout the region." SOUND FAMILIAR??!! Now take a guess which global corporation is behind that as well as the WATER WARS here in Portland. That's right, CH2M HILL!


Kenric Ashe

July 16, 2013 at 10:33 PM

(in the previous url there should be an underscore between usace and adopts ... the comment software here interprets the first one as italics markup)

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