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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.

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Supporting the community in a time of need

COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges for everyone, however, Portland has risen to the occasion. Portland Water Bureau employees are working hard to keep city infrastructure sound, as well as deliver excellent water to Portland residents. Outside their hours in the office and the field, PWB employees continue to give their time and efforts to the community.

Engineering Supervisor Michelle Lostra spends much of her free time sewing beautiful masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Lostra teamed with her sisters and a handful of others to give out hundreds of masks to an assisted living center near her home. Some of the masks were also given out at a Multnomah Gardens Post Office.

"I think it's just kind of fun," said Lostra, who learned to sew in middle school. "It's just nice to be able to give something to my community. I'm going around my neighborhood and giving them out. I've thought about packing them in my pockets so when I go out to the store if I see someone without a mask I can give them one."

Physical distancing while working at Dodge Park

Portland Water Bureau personnel continue to do essential work during our COVID-19 response. Schedules have shifted. Some work assignments have changed. Our commitment to serving excellent water every minute of every day continues.

Here are the words of Fish Biology Burke Strobel describing how his team adapted to physical distancing restrictions while delivering on this vital work:

 

We scrambled that first weekend, when we were told we needed to work from home. We needed to get a second vehicle because we normally go out in groups of two. We have had to rearrange how we do different tasks in the field.  

Before we would switch tasks between people. You’d have one person going to check fish traps and the other person running the processing station for weighing the fish. Then the person who took the fish from the traps would weigh the fish, and the other person would take in the data.  

Now we don’t switch up. One person does one task the entire day so they’re the only one who comes in contact with their equipment. We’ve reduced the amount of sampling to the bare minimum for what we have to do to eliminate as much contact as possible.  

We do our work at Dodge Park. Things are definitely quieter there than they used to be. When you’re in the park it does feel quieter than it did before. But if you get into the woods then there’s not much of a difference. The difference for us is we’re taking pains to make sure we’re further apart from one another.  

There’s an appreciation that it’s important work. I think everybody on the crew feels lucky that they do get to keep going out. That their job is one of the jobs that’s still allowed to be done because its both important and it’s something that can be done with minimal risk. 

MEDIA ADVISORY: City of Portland Utilities Pledge $1 Million for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

PORTLAND, OR – Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz are taking additional steps to help City of Portland sewer, stormwater, and water small business customers with their utility bills during the ongoing public health and economic crisis with the Small Business Program for Utility Relief (SPUR). The Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services have pledged $1 million in financial support for small businesses impacted by the pandemic. Credits for City of Portland utility bills are expected to assist between approximately 200 and 300 small businesses and will range between $1,000 and $10,000. The City of Portland utility bureaus are partnering with Prosper Portland, the city’s economic development agency, to develop criteria for providing relief to impacted businesses.

“Today’s actions build upon our continued efforts to help each other weather the COVID storm,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Portland is a small business town. Our small businesses are employers, neighbors, and mainstays of our neighborhoods. By helping small businesses, especially Black, indigenous, people of color, and women-owned businesses, we are contributing to the City’s resilience and recovery.”

More information is available at the Water Bureau’s website, portlandoregon.gov/water/smallbiz. Business owners can sign up now to get an announcement when the application opens. Applications will be open for two weeks beginning July 8, and will be evaluated using a racial equity and vulnerability lens. Applications will not be evaluated on a first come-first served basis.

“Small businesses give Portland its unique character and add to its vibrant economic fabric. This funding is designed to help our most vulnerable businesses weather the storm of the pandemic. We know that a racial wealth gap and barriers to capital exist,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz said. “We are designing a program that prioritizes assistance on utility bills for businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color (BIPOC) and women.”

“Many local businesses are facing significant hardships,” said Prosper Portland Executive Director Kimberly Branam. “We look forward to collaborating with the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environment Services to create a program that provides equitable access to crucial utility payment assistance for small businesses in this challenging time.”

In addition to this support for small businesses, the bureaus have expanded the financial assistance program for residential customers. Portland City Council recently approved an expansion of the Water Leak Repair Assistance Program, which more than doubles funding to help income-qualified homeowners make necessary water leak repairs to their homes.

“We continue to look for ways to reduce barriers and get financial assistance to those in need,” Water Bureau Director of Customer Service Kathy Koch said. “We have temporarily relaxed eligibility requirements for our bill discount program, including the proof-of-income documentation requirement. We are seeing more people signing up for these programs and we are ready to help.”

The City of Portland utility bureaus continue to offer all customers no-interest flexible payment schedules. In response to the crisis, the utility bureaus have temporarily suspended late fees, collections and water shut-offs on accounts with past-due balances. Financial assistance may not cover an entire bill, so bureaus recommend that customers continue to make payments that are manageable to them to avoid a potentially larger balance in the future.

The financial assistance programs serve thousands of Portlanders and offer a menu of options for reducing or waiving portions of the utility bills. These include:

Services for residential customers:

Services for all customers:

  • Monthly statements offer the option of paying each month to avoid a quarterly bill that includes three months of sewer/stormwater/water charges.
  • Clean River Rewards provide savings for those who manage stormwater on their property.
  • Water Efficiency offers free water-saving devices and rebates for toilet and irrigation upgrades.

To learn more about how the City can help, or to view the detailed information about these programs, please start here. If you still have questions, email  PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov or contact City Customer Service staff at 503-823-7770. Limited staffing may result in longer response time.

ABOUT THE PORTLAND WATER BUREAU 

The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day. Find us on Twitter @PortlandWater and visit us at portlandoregon.gov/water.

About the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services 

The City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services - your sewer and stormwater utility - provides Portland residents with programs to protect water quality and public health, including wastewater collection and treatment, sewer construction and maintenance, stormwater management, and stream and watershed restoration.  Follow on Twitter - @BESPortland. On the web: portlandoregon.gov/bes/news.

About PROSPER PORTLAND 

Prosper Portland creates economic growth and opportunity for Portland. Our vision is to make Portland one of the most globally competitive, healthy, and equitable cities in the world by investing in job creation, encouraging broad economic prosperity, and fostering great places throughout the city. We aspire to be a workplace of choice with passionate staff excelling in an open and empowering environment and sharing a commitment to our collective success. Follow us on Twitter @prosperportland or visit us at prosperportland.us.

Drinking Water Quality Report headed your way

A preview of the Portland Water Bureau’s 2020 Drinking Water Quality Report will land in your mailbox this week. Portlanders already know a lot about our drinking water. We make it easy for you to learn more – what’s in your water, what’s not, and how people at the Portland Water Bureau work everyday to keep your water safe and protected.

If you only learn one thing from this report, it’s that Portland Water Bureau continues to deliver clean and safe drinking water that meets or surpasses drinking water standards to nearly a million customers. But did you also know that the Portland Water Bureau performs approximately 12,000 tests per year to track more than 200 contaminants?

“This pandemic underscores the critical role that access to safe drinking water plays in public health. Dedicated people are working hard to monitor, treat and protect the water our community relies on. We do the work so you never have to worry about a future without this precious resource,” said Water Bureau Director Michael Stuhr.

This year’s report includes:

  • Information about how we monitor, treat, and deliver your drinking water.
  • Drinking water quality results from 2019 and provides information about your drinking water system.
  • Updates on drinking water treatment projects. These improvements will provide increased public health protection against lead in household plumbing and Cryptosporidium, an organism that can potentially cause illness.
  • Learn about how the Water Bureau is keeping up with new technology and regulations.

The Portland Water Bureau is sending a mailer this week to inform every customer about the availability of this report online. Customers can request a paper copy online or by phone at 503-823-9444. The report is also available in Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Spanish, and screen reader-accessible large print.

Portland City Council Approves 2020-21 Water Rates

Portland City Council approved a modest water rates increase for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 (July 2020 to June 2021) in a 3-0 vote. The city adjusts water rates annually on July 1. With this adjustment, the monthly water-only bill for a typical single-family household will be $44.89.

Important note: The bill that Portland utility customers receive includes water, sewer and stormwater services. Sewer and stormwater services are handled by the Bureau of Environmental Services. We’ll stick to water costs below, since that’s our area of expertise. Click here to view a handy overview of what your bill pays for.

In the Mayor’s budget, the water-only proposed rate increase is $2.75 (6.5 percent) monthly for a typical single-family household.

The reasons for the increase follow:

  • Compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. We keep in good standing with state and federal regulations to ensure that your water is always clean and safe.
  • The ongoing cost of maintaining an aging system. More than 2,000 miles of pipe deliver water throughout the Portland area. Many of those pipes are more than 80 years old. We need to invest in our aging system.
  • The rising costs of health care, debt service, and personnel increases for represented employees.
  • Ongoing investments in projects that make our system more resilient. Portland is at risk of a major earthquake. When the “Big One” hits, we need to be prepared. That’s why the budget includes critical projects that harden our conduits, fortify our facilities, and reinforce our new reservoirs.

“In these times, we’re proud to be there for people who need it most while continuing to provide safe drinking water to all,” said Kathy Koch, Portland Water Bureau Customer Service Director. “We are balancing the need to keep water affordable while investing in an aging system that is safe and resilient for future generations.”

The Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services (the utility bureaus) offer a menu of financial assistance options for reducing or waiving portions of their bills. These include:

The City of Portland utility bureaus continue to offer all customers no-interest flexible payment schedules. The City is not currently charging late fees, is not pursing collections on all past due accounts, and will not shut off anyone’s water for non-payment during this crisis. Click the links below to learn about the different financial assistance services we offer to qualified customers. (Information on Customer Services hours of operation, paying your bill and more can be found at portlandoregon.gov/water/customerservice.

Services for residential customers:

Services for all customers:

  • Monthly statements offer the option of paying each month to avoid a quarterly bill that includes three months of sewer/stormwater/water charges.
  • Clean River Rewards provide savings if you manage stormwater on your property.
  • Water Efficiency offers free water-saving devices and rebates for toilet and irrigation upgrades.

To learn more about how we can help, or to view the detailed information about these programs, click here or contact our Customer Service staff at 503-823-7770 or PWBCustomerService@portlandoregon.gov.