Council Directs Water Bureau to Proceed with Water Filtration Facility
August 3, 2017
Yesterday, City Council held a hearing to discuss options for compliance with a federal rule requiring treatment for the parasite Cryptosporidium. The Council, by a 5-0 vote, directed the Water Bureau to begin planning for a water filtration facility.
The City has been – and remains in – compliance with all state and federal rules. We continue to test our water for parasites (and haven’t had any detections since March), and Bull Run water is safe to drink.
The hearing included presentations from Water Bureau staff and the City’s Chief Financial Officer, and testimony from Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis, our two citizen oversight bodies – the Portland Utility Board (PUB) and the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB), and the public.
Following public testimony, Council directed the Water Bureau to proceed with design and construction of a filtration facility.
Cryptosporidium, or “Crypto” is a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of humans and other animals and can cause illness. Federal regulations – the Safe Drinking Water Act and Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (“LT2”) – require local water utilities to treat for Crypto.
In 2012, Portland became the only water utility in the country to receive a 10-year variance to the required treatment. The variance was a “one strike and you’re out” agreement, and mandated stringent testing.
This past winter, following heavy rains, the bureau detected trace amounts of Crypto in our Bull Run Watershed. In May, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) notified the City that our variance would be revoked, and that we would be required to present a treatment plan to them this fall.
In May, the Water Bureau initiated a robust public process to review treatment options. In June, Council held a work session to learn about treatment options. And the PUB held several public meetings, and both the PUB and the CUB issued formal recommendations encouraging Council to proceed with filtration.
Based on community input, Mayor Wheeler and Commissioner Fish asked OHA for more time to submit our compliance plan. In response, OHA gave us an additional 60 days.
The Water Bureau will use this additional time to develop a compliance plan in consultation with the PUB and CUB.
Thanks to community members who testified and shared their input, the PUB and the CUB for their recommendations, Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis for lending his perspective as a public health professional, and City staff for providing Council with the information it needed to come to a thoughtful decision.