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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 16, 2009 1:17 AM. The previous post in this blog was Thoughts on the climbers, from a climber. The next post in this blog is Unforgivable. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Portland water E. coli flap -- over seagull poop?

You would think that with all the excitement surrounding the boil-water order that the City of Portland issued over the Thanksgiving weekend, there would be an equal amount of interest in exactly where the E. coli in the Washington Park reservoir came from. Not so. Yesterday, KGW aired a news segment, posted here, that doesn't mention until the end, quite casually, that the strain of E. coli found in the reservoir has been identified. The reporter says that it was a "nonpathological strain" -- I think he meant to say "nonpathogenic" -- and he added that that means it couldn't have sickened humans, anyway.

An alert reader tells us that on the 11:00 news, KGW reported that water bureau had determined that the E. coli probably came from a seagull. That tidbit of information appears nowhere on the web at the moment. Does anybody know if it's true?

In any event, rest assured that the city will now embark on a nine-figure project to disconnect or cover the open reservoirs (or both). Fireman Randy, the water commissioner, will likely also continue to push to deputize the water bureau security guards and instruct them to shoot all seagulls on sight. And if they can't have guns, then they'll be instructed to chase the birds and shout at them: "Go away, you darn gulls!"

The city is also looking into the possibility that the seagulls are being attracted to the reservoir by the Greek Cusina.

I hate to sound like a tinfoil helmet type, but something about this whole E. coli incident smells to me like a grand set-up.

Comments (16)

A basic tenet of Three Card Monte is to deflect the rubes attention while operating the scam.

I live in unincorporated Washington County, specifically Garden Home, near Portland. Our water provider is Tualatin Valley Water Dist (TVWD) but the water actually comes from Portland. Like other utilities, water lines do not necessarily stop at jurisdictional boundaries. With that in mind, a savvy neighbor called the TVWD emergency number on Saturday Nov. 28 and was told by a representative to boil water. I had checked their website and there was nothing. On Sunday, Nov. 29, the neighbor again called TVWD and got a recording saying no need to boil water.

So WTF? Did the "boil water" alert end at the Westside city limits? Does E.coli not cross jurisdictional boundaries? Precisely which reservoir (or reservoirs) serves Garden Home and other areas near but not in Portland? So far, that remains a mystery.

Jack et al., I'm going to send out some info on the test results this morning as soon as I get the go ahead. (I'm standing in as PIO for Jennie Day - Burget, who is on vacation.)

The water quality specialists want to make sure all the information released is 100% correct. Me - not water quality specialist, but I will send it out as soon as I get the approval.

- Sarah

"this whole E. coli incident smells to me like a grand set-up"

For Salzman's buddies to get the reservoir lid contract?

Let's hope we don't get another emergency like the last time the PIO was on vacation.


Water provided by us to TVWD and some of our other west side wholesale customers is supplied by a large transmission main known as the Washington County Supply Line. It comes straight from our supply hub at Powell Butte which is why TVWD, Tigard, Taulatin, Raleigh Hills and West Slope customers were not part of the "Boil Water Notice".

David Shaff, Administrator
Portland Water Bureau

Hi folks,

We have info now posted on the Water Bureau website re the e-coli incident.

Thanks for your interest.

-Sarah Bott

“Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows meaning, a higher purpose for life? For a thousand years we have scrabbled after fish heads, but now we have a reason to live – to learn, to discover, to be free! “

I too live near Garden Home off of Oleson Rd. and was trying to figure out via the water departments where my water was coming from. Thank God it comes from Bull Run. I'll drink Seagull poop, but keep that poisonous fluoride out of my water!

"Does anybody know if it's true?"

Seems this an easy question to get an answer about.

David Shaff of the Water Bureau has been pretty available, open and good about answering questions from the media and from the public. The Water Bureau has an good web site and an excellent blog - really top notch.

David and Sara come accross as sincere professionals. It's too bad that their bureau is tainted by their boss, who is a complete egomaniacal ass.

Commissioner Steroid will use the E.coli incident as his own litle 9/11 and use it to justify unquestioned power and spending, just as the Bushies justified everything after the attacks.

In the end, four things are true about the incident:

(1)Nobody was at risk of e. coli-related illness
(2)Birds have been pooping in open Portland reservoirs for over a century
(3)There aren't enough seagulls in all of Portland to generate enough poop to cause a serious health problem in drinking water
(4)e.coli's been found many times before during routine testing.

None of these neccessitate "covering the reservoirs". Never have, never will.

As for the Water Bureau's "accessibility" and "excellent blog"--c'mon. I remember quite well the Bureau's flak generating much hostility and propoganda when the push was on to cover the reservoirs. It was gag-inducing--especially the downright dishonesty about water rates and ability to "terrorize" the reservoirs, which I and several others easily and repeatedly refuted with facts.

And a "blog" for the Water Bureau? Wow-how did folks ever survive without a city bureau blogging, tweeting, Facebook-ing, and otherwise pushing out megabytes of content every week? Notices about routine water issues padded heavily with notices of staff wedding announcements, recipes, "blog offs" and other nonsense that each and every one of us pay for?

Folks, city bureaus could cut close to 70% of administrative staffs and still provide every essential service. It's save you millions in taxes every years. It's a dirty little secret that nobody wants to admit to--especially the bureaus themselves.

"David Shaff of the Water Bureau has been pretty available, open and good about answering questions from the media and from the public."

Puh-leeze, whenever you ask them about water rate raises of 18%, PURB telling them they are wasting money and they can't have an 18% raise - You won't hear a peep from Schaff et al.

You can even get a straight answer on why they need to raise rates outside of "we might need the money for LT2, but we really don't have any other purpose for it."

Of course, their boss wanted to do a raise sooner.

"You can even"

Should be:

"You can't even"

When we have money for blogs pushgin water bottles, stickers and recipes and then when we have an emergency and they are gone, I am hard-pressed to believe they need a cent more for what is essentially free water without any need for CapEx on PWB's part.

A new citizens group has formed around the issue of Portland's water:

We are just getting going, so a few rough edges on the site. But there is good information to be found there now- including a press release statement about the E.coli incident.

Our primary position is that we need more transparency around water policy and a much more determined effort to fight the EPA's LT2 mandate (both on excessive cost and lowering our water quality should we comply)

How many seagulls does it take to shut down an open reservoir? Maybe they got the e coli from discarded fast food wrappers? I'm more concerned about the unregulated chemicals in the groundwater, than some bird poop.


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Road Work

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Total run in 2016: 155
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