Is the City of Portland wimping out on open reservoirs?
The folks who don't want to see the City of Portland cover or disconnect its open drinking water reservoirs, in Mount Tabor Park and Washington Park, are pretty much tilting at windmills. The city fathers -- most notably the city's RDE (Richard Daley equivalent), Fireman Randy -- already have a huge water storage tank going in at Powell Butte. And they've noted in several places that the days of the reservoirs, at least as functioning part of the water distribution system, are numbered.
Nonetheless, the open reservoir fans press on undaunted. In a letter to the City Council earlier this week, they wrote:
On December 16, 2009 EPA replied to Commissioner Leonard’s November 2009 request for clarification regarding the reservoir Variance application process. In this reply the EPA contends that the Variance provided for by Congress within the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is not available for the open reservoirs.Good luck, people. The fix is already in with the construction boys on the underground tanks -- and the condo boys will be moving in for the reservoir sites shortly. Go by streetcar!
Ten months ago in March 2009 EPA responded in the same manner to New York City, another city seeking to retain their large Hillview open reservoir. New York was not deterred by EPA’s response and New York’s legal team advised the Portland Water Bureau that the EPA’s interpretation of the variance applicability is in fact wrong. We agree EPA is wrong. The SDWA clearly authorizes EPA to grant a variance from the LT2 "cover or treat" Cryptosporidium "treatment technique" requirement.
New York’s Department of Environmental Quality spent more than a year compiling data, 161 pages, to support the retention of its Hillview reservoir. Unfortunately, during that same period of time the Portland Water Bureau focused a majority of its resources on developing and implementing fast-tracked reservoir burial projects, doing so without any public involvement.
New York City’s extensive undeterred efforts to preserve their open reservoir provide a clear blueprint for action by the City of Portland. The community expectation is that the City makes a serious effort to secure the available SWDA reservoir variance, an effort evidenced in part by a Water Bureau work product. A single late-date letter to the EPA regarding a reservoir variance is not enough.
The Friends of the Reservoirs offer the following advice:
1. Stop approving consultant contracts. The plan filed with the EPA in March 2009 gives YOU, City Council the power to alter the plan or the pace at which it is implemented. As noted in the fine print, the reservoir burial plan is contingent upon City Council approval of individual projects, it can be renegotiated with the EPA if the City Council does not approve the current schedule for any particular project within it.
2. Require the Portland Water Bureau to prepare a detailed report documenting relevant scientific data in support of a reservoir variance.
3. Seek an extension or deferral from the EPA from the burial projects. Community stakeholders have long recommended this action for both the open reservoirs and the source water requirement.
4. Engage the assistance of the City Attorney and/or outside counsel Foley Hoag.
5. Seek further assistance from Senator Jeff Merkley who has demonstrated his support for retention of the open reservoirs.
6. Submit the data to the EPA or state of Oregon if the state has assumed Primacy for the regulation; in 2006 the state legislature unanimously approved and the Governor signed into law a state provision for variances with the full knowledge that Portland would be seeking such a variance for its open reservoirs.
7. Do not rule out legislation. The opportunity for further Congressional intervention is not only possible but also likely in light of the acknowledged flaws with EPA’s source water variance plan.