The Oregonian had a couple of pieces in it yesterday about the plan to bury the Mount Tabor and Washington Park Reservoirs. A news story finally addressed head-on the question of how much cheaper it would be to install state-of-the-art security rather than big, dumb underground tanks. And the answer is, a lot cheaper, like 1/7 the cost. I told you so a long time ago. Maybe security isn't the best answer, but doggone it, there should have been more public dialogue about that option before the decision was made to bury.
More interesting, though, was a commentary on the op-ed page which claims that burying the reservoirs will actually harm water quality by encouraging the growth of noxious organisms that thrive in light-free, air-free environments. Amidst all the arguments about aesthetics and security, I hadn't heard that one before.
On another front, the author claims that the cost of the reservoir covering projects will be closer to $1 billion than the $75 million that the city's talking about (up from $65 million less than a year ago). He goes on:
Burial proponents claim that open reservoirs are obsolete and scarce. They don't tell you that millions of people in major cities, including New York and San Francisco, continue to drink unfiltered water from open reservoirs.
Why does this continue? The reason is that these cities rely on the expertise of microbiologists who scientifically evaluate all aspects of water safety, rather than construction engineers whose reflex response is to solve every supposed problem with an expensive structure.
"If this project goes forward," he concludes, "it will become Portland's greatest public works disaster."
The op-ed piece is by Scott Fernandez, identified by the paper as a former member of the City Council's Water Quality Advisory Committee and now on its Public Utility Review Board. The commentary can be found in its entirety here (he said, hopefully).