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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 26, 2010 1:13 PM. The previous post in this blog was Forget E. Coli for a minute -- check out Cryptococcus Gattii. The next post in this blog is Trouble in the Beav'. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Monday, April 26, 2010

But I'm talkin' 'bout Shaff (then we can dig it)

David Shaff, the director of the Portland water bureau, is usually sporting enough to respond to some of the harsh questioning he receives on this blog. After we wondered aloud last week why we're reading about E. coli in the city's reservoirs so much all of a sudden, he writes:

Since the implementation of the Total Coliform Rule in 1990, we have had 17 cases where we have had a sample test positive for E coli at a compliance point. That works out to a bit less than 1 per year. We have had additional positives that were not at compliance points – places where we test but are not required to and therefore don’t report. Even then, we typically do consult with the state drinking water folks to let them know what we have found and what we are doing about it even when not required. Obviously, Total Coliforms and E coli existed before 1990, and I don’t know what the rules or processes were before then, but can have some staff do some research if you are interested in more information.

We typically have many more Total Coliform positives than E coli positives. They are more frequent in the summer and fall when the water is warmer and bacteria can grow more easily.... [W]e can have quite a few in the summer. They are potentially a big deal and can trigger a Boil Water Notice, but are usually not much of an event or issue. The rules are a bit different for them – E Coli is what really amps things up.

Total Coliforms and E coli have been found throughout the system; I doubt that there is a statistical difference between how many times they are found at the reservoirs as opposed to other storage or in the distribution system (i.e. in a sample taken from the pipes) but they are found more at the reservoirs and downstream from the reservoirs....

There is a website maintained by the Oregon Department of Health Drinking Water Program where you can get all kinds of official reported data from PWB and find all of our positive tests for Total Coliforms and E Coli going back many, many years. They are not secret and pretty easy to find. I found them by going off a link on our website.

You said you haven't heard about them in all your years in Portland. We don’t publicize them. You heard about the Thanksgiving one last year because the two E coli positives in a row triggered the Boil Water Notice. This one you heard about because an anonymous caller called KGW Wednesday and told them about it. KGW talked to me, I gave them the information and they posted an article on their website. That was picked up by other media outlets Wednesday evening and then they followed up with on-camera and radio interviews Thursday. We don’t hide them, but we don’t send out press releases either. They are indicators, along with many others, that we track and respond to as needed. Although not "routine," they are something we see and deal with as a matter of course. This incident was like the first 15 – one positive followed by a negative and no action to take. The Thanksgiving incident was the anomaly. As I told Council in a note yesterday, we had a small event this week that could have turned into a really big event but didn’t.

We have a testing schedule that is required and approved by the state. We do around 300+ samples a month, a few more than we are required to perform. We do that partly to ensure we don’t get in regulatory jail if we miss one or have one invalidated and partly because we think we should test more widely than we are required to. We are the front line of public health defense for 800,000 Oregonians, and despite what some might say, we take that seriously. My folks are all well trained and most have higher certifications than they are required to have in order to operate and maintain a drinking water system.

I am told that we are also using lab methods and tests that are more accurate and sensitive than they used to be – which means that we will likely see more of these in the future as the tests improve and the regulations get more stringent. That is not a big surprise given that labs used to detect in the parts per million range and are now able to detect parts per trillion in some cases.

A number of reporters asked if this incident would effect the open reservoir discussion. My answer this week is the same as it was last December. Since we are already under mandate to stop storing our finished drinking water in open reservoirs, and since we have already begun the projects to comply with that mandate, these incidents have no impact on that issue.

Shaff also addressed a number of other criticisms he has heard, both on this blog and elsewhere, about the city's plans to disconnect the open water reservoirs and replace them with underground tanks. We'll take them up in a later post.

Comments (13)

He say anything about what work they have actually done that justified the 18% water rate increase? Any chance they will browbeat Bluemenauer/Wyden/Merkley into leaning on the EPA to stop this nonsense that they are using as an excuse to raise rates?

Sam takes trips all the time to get trolley money from Earl, so it isn't without precedent.

Otherwise, I fear they are going to keep whipping up this water purity issue until they've jacked up rates several 100%.

The new protection racket: you let us jack up your water/sewer rates to the highest in the country or we let the little bugs loose

Ralph, you're confusing that with Randy's HIT team. Get up to code or we'll throw some bedbugs in the mix.

S E Coli Parkway

All the mandate language sounds so official, since the PWB leader is so open on the subject, he should proudly announce that his neighbor, Joe Glicker, VP at CH2MHILL helped create the language that is the LT2 rule. Funny how the EPA allowed so much influence into their agency from a source that would benefit so greatly by all the contracts that would be awarded in their direction. The contracts were awarded to previous companies ahead of CH2MHILL all you have to do is follow Mr. Glicker to keep up with a large portion of the increase in our rates. Always follow the money, you will generally get your answers.

I'm having trouble following how the federal EPA accepting language proposed by Shaff's neighbor (if that in fact is what happened) has anything to do with Shaff, or the city, for that matter.

The city does seem to have a pattern, however, of following friendly individuals from contractor to contractor as they change employers. I have heard similar complaints about the parking operation.

I attended last month's water and sewer portland utility review board meeting, and I am pretty sure city staff said the city's request for a variance on reservoir coverage is still being considered by EPA. But while under consideration the city acts to be compliance with EPA's mandate on reservoir coverage.

I am kind of torn myself between leaving the reservoirs as is and covering them up. I think I would prefer if EPA would stretch out the coverage mandate over many decades so as to help keep the near term economic impact on water and sewer bills much lower.

Since we are already under mandate to stop storing our finished drinking water in open reservoirs

Notice that Shaff (and the City, and the Water Bureau) carefully refer to these as "drinking water reservoirs".

truth is, they're not specifically for drinking water--it's just general finished water storage. Citizens drink less than a quarter of it, if that. The rest goes to your toilet, shower, sink and yard. In other words, it'd actually be more appropriate to call it "toilet water" or "shower water"--because that's what it's mainly used for.

And, the amound of water in the reservoirs around town is minimal. They're not where "all our water" comes from.

I wondered who Joe Glicker was as well, when I first looked into open reservoirs. I called Senator Jeff Merkeley's office in November '09 and asked about the open reservoir issue, after I found the number in the web site "Friends of Reservoirs". They were not able to answer me so I left my name on a machine. An hour later I receive a call saying that they had to look up MY phone number in the register of voters. She told me that the powers that be over Bull Run were Randy Leonard, Water Bureau Commissioner and then she hesitated and said, Joe Glicker. After that, I too followed the money and Joe Glicker as a prior 14 year employee of the Portland Water Bureau ending his employ as Chief Engineer, went into "the private sector". Joe went to work for Montgomery Watson... He is the apparent mover and shaker in our Bull Run Water Shed and working now as a VP of CH2M Hill, both lucrative and influential. Isn't there an entire engineering wing named after CH2M Hill at one of our universities? How influential is a man who has no public image, but can move mountains...Hummmmm

Get filters for your home drinking water faucets and shower heads.

I don't think it's toilet water or shower water until after it's been in the toilet or the shower. Up to that point, it's drinking water. (Ask your dog, though.)

I don't think it's toilet water or shower water until after it's been in the toilet or the shower. Up to that point, it's drinking water.

I don't think it's drinking water until it's in a glass. Up to that point, it's just water.

As noted in the City's Official Statement related to recent issuance of $73 million Water Revenue Bond the EPA LT2 open reservoir requirement DOES NOT REQUIRE THAT WE STOP USING OUR OPEN RESERVOIRS. The requirement is the same as for our Bull Run source water, that we "treat" the open reservoirs for contaminants that do not exist - "treat or cover" to address Crypto, Giardia and viruses. The Bureau and their cozy consultants were involved in negotiating the rule that now benefits the cozy consultants (former Water Bureau official, Glicker) and global corporations.

E-coli is detected throughout the system and not concentrated at the reservoirs per a consultant study. Non infectious bacteria is obviously harmless.

According to the State Drinking Water program bacteria can be a caused by construction. The Water Bureau has spent over $45 million on 4 open reservoir construction upgrade contracts between 2003 and 2010, projects designed to provide a 50-year return on investment. Ratepayers will pay $90 million for these upgrades over the next 25 years.
Meanwhile the Bureau awarded Joe Glicker (CH2M Hill) with the Powell Butte burial contract and in May they plan to give him a contract related to designing a Bull Run UV treatment plant even though it will likely never be built. Back in 2007 the Bureau awarded CH2M Hill a $750,000 flexible service contract related to LT2 unbeknownst to community stakeholders.

The Water Bureau never misses an opportunity to award cozy consultant contracts.

A Safe Drinking Water variance is available for the open reserviors just as for Bull Run source water. But the Water Bureau is committed to its consultants and not the community. In March a PURB member commented that she too had not received a satisfactory response from the Bureau as to why a greater effort isn't being made in support of the reservoir variance given the significant investment in upgrades. Another member supported the community and questioned the Bureau. More than twenty-five organizations have written to Senator Merkley and City Council in support of retaining the open reservoirs. A $500,000 2004 Reservoir Panel examined every and all issues related to the open reservoirs.

Since that time the Water Bureau participated in an American Water Works Research Foundation Infectious Crypto study (AwwaRF 3021) in 2008 thru May 2009 to collecting large volumes of water at the outlets of the open reservoirs, data supposedly collected in support of a reservoir variance. But the PWB refuses to post that data online, to make the data public despite repeated requests and despite Randy's claim that the Bureau is transparent. To the Water Bureau transparency means keeping information of interest to the public invisible. This scientific data was collected with public funds. Had the data revealed any positive Crypto detects the Bureau would have certainly sent out a press release, but since all samples were negative the PWB refuses to post the data alongside the source water data which you can find here,

If you follow the money which has flowed for 15 years to the Bureau's former official and now long-time cozy consultant, Joe Glicker you will understand why Portland ratepayers are being forced to pay for projects that will degrade our water and our system, creating new risks from Radon and cancer-causing nitrification all for the benefit of Glicker and global corporations.

Visit for more info. Go to the background tab on the left for info on Glicker and MWH. Since moving to CH2M Hill, the Sandy River contract, Powell Butte II and large flexible service contracts have flowed his way. These are not yet posted on the website.


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