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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Portland water: still with Advil

We got this year's colorful 12-page booklet on Portland drinking water quality the other day:

It had some interesting information in it, in addition to all the hype. One item was the news that the open reservoirs at Mount Tabor are scheduled to be disconnected by the end of 2015, with the water currently stored there being moved to the underground tanks at Powell Butte. The deadline for disconnecting the reservoirs at Washington Park is the end of 2020.

One blue note is the fact that they're still finding over-the-counter drugs in the groundwater out by the wells that the city uses in late summer and early fall, when the Bull Run reservoir is low. This has been happening since 2007, when they detected small quantities of acetaminophen, ibuprofen, a sulfa drug (an antibiotic), and caffeine. In April 2008, they detected two kinds of hormones from birth-control pills -- estradiol and 17 alpha-ethinyl estradiol.

One of the latest reported tests found detected 3.5 parts per trillion of ibuprofen. The city explains:

I'm not sure what actions the city can take, but I sure do wish people would stop throwing Advil down their wells.

Comments (16)

How many of us understand parts per million or parts per billion? Do we really need this information or is the EPA requirement that we receive this each year designed to scare us into buying bottled water or a purifier? And I received one even though I live in Milwaukie. Another unfunded Federal mandate.

The City of Portland is required by federal law to send out some information to its customers every year. I am sure it doesn't have to be anywhere near this fancy and expensive, however.

The city picked the worst spot in the region to dig those wells for supplemental water. The consultants they hired for site location should get the death penalty. Not only are those trace chemicals in that aquifer but also PCBs from Cascade Corp and what is now Boeing. As a matter of fact that is why the city and county mandated the east county sewer project to protect that already tainted aquifer. The wells should have been dug along the Sandy River way above Troutdale to begin with. As usual the decisions made were stupid and now we are not only paying for them in increased costs but also with possible long terms pollution issues.

How much did it cost exactly and is that cost out of line with a similar commercial job?

I didn't think it was very "fancy" at all. I'm sure if it was 4 page of B&W Courier font it would be instant recycling bin filler.

It's 12 pages, full color, with staged photos, history photos -- I'll bet it cost a pretty penny. Maybe David Shaff, director of the bureau, can tell us. Or one of his three paid bloggers.

My point was, and remains, that federal law could have been complied with much more cheaply.

The mailing cost alone for a piece of this format was undoubtedly substantial. A smaller format on lighter stock with fewer photos and illustrations? Naaaaaaaaaah. Money is no object when you're running what amounts to one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated on city residents.

For years Leonard and Shaff have been told to relocate the well field because of contaminants. However, since Leonard knows everything and is always right, he wants to spend over a billion, including debt service, for water projects that serve no public health benefit. And yes, that does include the open reservoirs that don't need anything more than proper maintenance and security.

This is a ploy to add filtration that will not solve the problem. Shaff's water engineer buddy has been pushing it for years wanting to add to his PWB cash windfall.

Yes Jack, you are right. The PWB brochure could have been done without the glitz. Randy likes the Taj Mahal effect to make him feel important.

Leonard and Shaff have failed and should be fired.


You must have missed the following sentence: “The Portland Water
Bureau produced and mailed this report for 30 cents each.” It was produced in house by our water quality staff and includes information we are mandated to provide you every year. We also post it, but we cannot post it in lieu of sending it to you directly or by sending it to you electronically.

Here is a link to the regs: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccr/.

David Shaff, Administrator
Portland Water Bureau

The Portland Water Bureau produced and mailed this report for 30 cents each.

Multiplied by how many copies?

And is there any breakdown anywhere of how those costs were computed?

The actual rules are here:


It seems to me that three or four pages, on one 11-by-17-inch piece of paper, two-sided, with black ink only and no graphics, probably would have sufficed to satisfy the federal rules.

No doubt the costs were determined using 'Oregonian land sale' math.

The Portland Water Bureau has been out of sensible control for over 20 years. Check out the archives of the great Dr. Joseph P. Miller in the Bull Run Interest Group (BRIG) files at the Multnomah County Library.

(Backgrounder -- http://nwda-db.wsulibs.wsu.edu/nwda-search/fstyle.aspx?doc=OHYLOT1021.xml&t=k&q= )

Watch what happens if they start pumping Willamette River water into you, as they've been trying to set up for some time.

Say, what's the EPA drinking water standard for prions?

Nanomaterials and nanowastes?

Go by lifeboat!

The Portland Water Bureau produced and mailed this report for 30 cents each.

That's what it said on my copy, too. And while it may be possible to print a black-and-white copy to satisfy federal requirements, that's just not how things are done in Portland. Like light-rail, streetcars, and trams, things have to be flashy and "sustainable".

On Advil and stuff...no wonder I never have headaches. I get built-in immunity whenever the groundwater gets mixed into the system. What a great place!

Back before I moved here, things were a lot different. I'll never forget my first job, in the midwest, before crash dummies were popular. Man, I spent a fortune on aspirin.

Hmmmm. who could be dumping enough Advil into the system to actually make a spike... some hospital or hospitals dumping expired product? Just wondering.

No LucsAdvo.....it's called sewage.

At least our tap water is inspected an tested (EPA) whereas the bottled water we (they) purchase at the store is supposedly monitored by the FDA, but is actually rarely tested if at all. Of course most of the bottled water is just tap water anyway. Glad I don't live on the Ganges and drink that stuff...


I was out in the watershed all day and just caught up to my e-mail.

Here is how we computed the estimated cost per piece (330,000):

Personnel $ 9,280.89
Printing $31,787.00
Postage $54,450.00
(.1691 X 330,000)
Total $95,517.89

This is done before we finalize the total print job. We printed closer to 320,000, but there are always additional costs that are hard to capture such as staff time after 5/18 and Printing & Distribution costs, so we rounded up from $.29 to $.30.

For the record, a document with fewer pages would have the same mailing costs. We mail it using bulk mailing rates which are a flat fee up to a certain weight. We calculated last year that we could double the pages and still pay the same postage.

If you go to this cool website and change the name of the state you can find the CCRs of the cities in those states. If you look at the 5 other large, unfiltered systems in the country (NY, Boston, Seattle, Tacoma and S.F.), I think you will find that ours is fairly simple and modest. Besides us, I think Boston is the only one that has posted its 2010 report but the others should be up soon.


David Shaff

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