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City Council hears update on progress, new cost estimate for Bull Run Filtration Project

Photo credit by Luke Szatmary

Portland Water Bureau leadership and staff briefed City Council on progress of the federally required Bull Run filtration project at a September work session.

On the agenda: revisiting project costs initially estimated in 2017 and providing a series of cost options for the Council to consider for the project moving forward. The 2017 estimate served as a placeholder until more planning work could happen. It was based on facilities constructed in other communities and was provided to the City Council as a value to compare available treatment options.

Since then, the Water Bureau has engaged in a significant planning effort resulting in a more defined project scope that reflects community needs and values, today’s materials and labor costs, and direction from policy-makers and regulators. It also reflects site-specific projections for pipeline and other costs, as a location had not been chosen at the time of the 2017 council decision.

Two years of extensive planning work also provided an in-depth evaluation of filtration facilities and pipeline needs. The cost estimate presented to City Council includes the cost of construction, engineering, and management for the future filtration facility and, includes new pipeline segments that connect to existing supply lines from the Bull Run Watershed. The pipelines also provide the added benefits of replacing nearby aging pipelines that do not meet current seismic standards and are at risk of failure due to their poor condition.

Estimated monthly bill increase is 76 cents in 2020 gradually increasing to $10.91 in 2028 for the typical single family residential customerBureau staff recommended a full implementation option, which includes constructing the project in one phase to provide the highest-quality water, best protection against risks such as algal toxins and forest fires, and the lowest cost over time. Other options are to build the project in phases over a longer period – making the project more expensive in the long-term but lessening rate impacts in the short term.

Guided by community values

Throughout the process, decisions related to the Bull Run Treatment Program are guided by community values established through community engagement, including interviews with stakeholder groups, focus groups, statistically significant telephone surveys, online surveys completed by more than 1,800 water customers, open houses, and community forums. Customers said they value excellent water quality, getting good value from investments, improving reliability, and minimizing impacts on the community and environment. The eight-year filtration project has already presented opportunities for community engagement—of which there will be many more in the coming years.

Coming up:

  • The Portland Utility Board will hear an update on the project Oct. 1.
  • A Site Advisory Group, consisting of project site neighbors and stakeholders, will begin meeting Oct. 3.
  • Feedback from these groups and the community will be shared with City Council. The City Council is expected to provide the bureau direction on the project in November..

About this project

The Bull Run Filtration Project will remove Cryptosporidium and other contaminants from the Bull Run water supply, producing cleaner, safer water for the one million people who use our water now and for future generations. The project is required by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act and must be completed by September 30, 2027, per a bilateral compliance agreement with the Oregon Health Authority.

To learn more, visit portlandoregon.gov/water/filtration.

Join the Bull Run Treatment Projects email list to stay engaged at portlandoregon.gov/water/BRTPemailnews