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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 4, 2005 2:20 AM. The previous post in this blog was The City that Works... But Not For You. The next post in this blog is Don't worry, it'll be over soon. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, February 4, 2005

Weird Science, 2005

The City of Portland is fighting tooth and nail not to have to install a $60 million treatment system on its Bull Run drinking water, to filter out a parasite as required by federal law. But it's spending $1.3 billion (not a typo), so far, to re-do its sewer system to clean up the Portland Harbor stretch of the Willamette River, which no sensible person will even get near for much of the year, much less ever drink out of.

I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for all this. But I'm just saying. Any sensible person looking at the big picture has got to marvel at this paradox.

UPDATE, 2/5/05, 3:19 a.m.: The comments to this post were temporarily lost in a relocation of the server on which this blog resides. When they were restored, the date stamps on the comments were changed.

Comments (12)

Both projects are occurring due to federal mandates. In fact, the Bush administration had the gall to threaten Portland alleging not enough was being done regarding combined sewer overflows even though we are in the midst of spending more than a billion dollars to rectify that very situation.

Sort of odd to think of the Bush Administration telling Portland that Portland isn't doing enough for the environment, isn't it?

Actually, the CSO (combined sewage overflow) goes way back before the Bush administration. The feds mandated something on the order of 85% effectiveness, but lawsuits were threatened from certain environmental groups that we attain 95%. I don't have all the info handy, but if folks are interested I can probably point you to some references.

Hey Jack,

Sounds like you were serious about becoming a Republican. Not worrying about the people downstream. Isn't that the kind of thinking that begets environmental degradation to start with?

Perhaps the parasite is harmless and the city of Portland is just responding to the all-too-frequent over-reaching by the EPA. Bull Run water is just fine the way it is, as far as I'm concerned.

Crypto isn't harmless to many people. It often causes gastrointestinal problems that one has to endure...no ready drug treatment, but the immune system typically fights it off after a week or two. Crypto can be life-threatening to people with weakened immune systems. It usually takes about a week to cause symptoms, that sometimes seemingly go away and come back. One can be contagious for weeks after no longer experiencing symptoms. It is typically spread via contaminated feces.

Crypto is a protozoan (single-celled animal) that is resistant to disinfection via chlorination when it is dormant (it forms a hard shell to survive lean times). Other animals can carry it, like deer, elk, livestock, etc. And, some people carry and spread it without ever having symptoms. Portland hasn't had any known outbreaks (scientists didn't figure out it caused disease in humans until 1976), but Oregon did have an outbreak in Talent (between Medford and Ashland) in '91/'92.

Portland's water treatment system lacks a filtration system for crypto, therefore it isn't safe from it. It just depends upon the risk public officials want to take that someone or some animal won't contaminate Portland's water sources. It's a small risk, but one that could have bad consequences if Portland's number ever comes up.

Gordie: It's a small risk, but one that could have bad consequences if Portland's number ever comes up.

JK: Yes, but we must judge the cost against money for schools, helath care, police, fire etc.

Which would do the most good for the dollar?

Would we save more people by spending on other measures? These are questions that are typically unasked by government.

JK

Isaac says,

"""""Sort of odd to think of the Bush Administration telling Portland that Portland isn't doing enough for the environment, isn't it?"""""""

What's really odd is the delusion so many Oregonians have about what we are truly doing.

Portland has a high end share of superfund sites awaiting remedies and the Willamette River's biggest enemy is the city sewer system. Not to mention planned high rises along it's bank.

" Oregon ranked worst in the nation for its backlog of expired wastewater permits"

Now that's an impressive DEQ accomplishment. Who's been running our State agencies anyway?

http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news/1105707663184260.xml?oregonian?lcen

EPA chides Oregon's handling of polluters
The agency says the state must solve problems involving industrial sites and city sewage plants, or risk a federal takeover
Friday, January 14, 2005
JOE ROJAS-BURKE
Oregon rivers are not adequately protected from pollution because of widespread deficiencies in the way state authorities regulate industrial sites and city sewage plants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded after a lengthy review.

DEQ has been issuing permits that don't adequately assess how discharges will increase total pollution levels in the receiving river or stream, thus potentially failing to uphold water-quality standards.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has proposed increased funding for wastewater permitting and for a broader Willamette River cleanup initiative."

Here we go again. The only problem is not enough money. Even though the EPA report specifies problems with fines and policies unrelated to funding.

Ya things are odd here. And it's all Bush's fault.

>Portland's water treatment system lacks a filtration system for crypto, therefore it isn't safe from it. It just depends upon the risk public officials want to take that someone or some animal won't contaminate Portland's water sources. It's a small risk, but one that could have bad consequences if Portland's number ever comes up.

hmmm...rest of my comment seems to have been cut off; oh well...

Here in Puddletown, noted law professor Jack Bogdanski raises the issue that the City is fighting to avoid installing a filtration plant for our water supply, while spending $1.2 billion to address the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) issue. The CSO problem arises because the system is built such that household sewage and runoff all go into the same pipes, and during periods of heavy rain, there's noplace to go but into the river. The CSO issue is the single reason why Portland residents pay the second highest water/sewer bills in the entire USA.

But a couple of points are being missed, here: like all municipal water systems, Portland's water is routinely tested - and always exceeds Federal standards, despite having no filtration system appended to it. And as for the CSO problem - the issue could have been greatly ameliorated had our civic "leaders" stepped up to the plate and encouraged disconnection of structural downspouts from the sewer system. It doesn't call for a degree in engineering, as the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry amply demonstrated when they incorporated small-scale bioswales to capture and filter runoff from their parking areas and other runoff sources.

This is just common sense, and therein lies the problem: in Portland, it seems, you can have any kind of sense you want so long as it isn't common.

Nope, our "leaders" instead went ahead with the "big pipe" project, on the heels of a several million dollar computer system fiasco under the "leadership" of Commissioner Eric Sten and exacerbated by yet another multimillion dollar effort by Commissioner Dan Salzman to bury our historic reservoirs in order to keep us all safe from terrorism. Put it all together, and you have around $2 billion worth of "solutions" looking for a problem. The terrorism angle is particularly ironic, when viewed from the perspective that City mayors Vera Katz and Tom Potter have been adamantly opposed to Portland's participation in the joint terrorism task force.

Jay - I have a couple of quick questions...


1) "...like all municipal water systems, Portland's water is routinely tested"

How many people would get sick from an outbreak that occured between tests?


2) "...had our civic "leaders" stepped up to the plate and encouraged disconnection of structural downspouts from the sewer system..."

Where would the structual downspout water then drain to? Run down the street? Don't those storm drains connect to the sewer anyway, with the rainwater/sewage overflow going "directly" to the river?

Scott,
I put the same question to Dean Marriott, head of Bureau of Environmental Services about the downspout disconnect. My thinking, like yours, was that the water would end up running into the storm drains anyway. What he told me was that stormwater ending up on permeable surfaces is effectively filtered through dirt and gravel and does not end up in the stormwater system. By the time it gets to the river through the water table it is clean.


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