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Portland Water Bureau

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Understanding the Boil Water Notice Process

By Teresa Black

The Portland Water Bureau followed regulated procedures for reporting a positive total coliform and/or E. coli sample and issuing a Boil Water Notice.

The Water Bureau must report the results of any water samples that test positive for the presence of bacteria to the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Services (OHA). The bureau is then required to take several samples around the site and re-test. The test takes about 18 hours to show results. If either the first or second test comes back positive for the presence of E.coli, the OHA may order the Water Bureau to issue a Boil Water Notice. The Portland Water Bureau cannot issue a Boil Water Notice without the authorization from the OHA.

If the second test sample comes back ‘clean’, or free of bacteria, then a Boil Water Notice is not ordered by OHA.

The water quality incident of the week of May 19 was very unusual. In three regularly scheduled water samples, sampled from three different locations, the sample tested positive for E. coli. Following is the chronology of water quality incidents of the week of May 19, 2014.

Date: Wednesday May 21, 2014

Sample site: Reservoir 1 in Mt. Tabor Park

Results of a routine water sample taken Tuesday, May 20, collected at the outlet of Reservoir 1 in Mt.Tabor Park, came in early Wednesday May 21. The results tested positive for the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria. The bureau notified the OHA, which directed the City to take repeat samples. The results of the repeat samples came in Thursday morning and were all clear. OHA did not require any additional action from the Portland Water Bureau.

Date: Thursday May 22, 2014

Sample site: SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street Water Quality Sampling Station

Results of a routine water sample taken Wednesday, May 21, collected at the SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street Water Quality Sampling Station, came in early Thursday May 22. The results tested positive for the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria. The bureau notified the OHA, which again directed the City to take repeat samples. The results of the repeat samples came in Friday morning and were all clear. On Thursday, OHA did not require any additional action from the Portland Water Bureau.

Date: Friday May 23, 2014

Sample site: Reservoir 5 at Mt. Tabor Park

Results of a routine water sample taken Thursday, May 22, collected at the outlet of Reservoir 5 in Mt. TaborPark, came in early Friday. The results tested positive for the presence of E. coli and total coliform bacteria. The bureau notified the OHA, which directed the City to take repeat samples. At that time, OHA also ordered the Portland Water Bureau to issue a Boil Water Notice as a precautionary measure.

If the re-samples taken at Reservoir 5 atMt.Tabor Park and additional surveillance samples collected throughout the system come back ‘clean’ on Saturday May 24, the Boil Water Notice can be lifted for Portland Water Bureau customers.