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Monday, March 7, 2011

Fate of Portland water bills to be decided in Salem

The O has suddenly taken up the question whether all the bazillions the City of Portland is spending on ripping up its drinking water distribution system are really necessary. They ran two stories the last few days -- one on the ultraviolet treatment plant to be built at the Bull Run watershed ($500 million), and the other on the disconnecting of the open-air reservoirs at Mount Tabor and Washington Park ($400 million).

On the latter topic, the paper points out what we've all known for quite some time -- that the city isn't fighting as hard as many of us would like to avoid the major expense of building new water storage and disconnecting the historic reservoirs in the parks. But the tone of that article was that there's still some chance that the changes can be avoided, and that seems quite unlikely. The city is already building a huge underground tank at Powell Butte, and they aren't going to be selling that to the McMenamins for use as a giant beer keg (although that sounds kind of good, doesn't it?). They're also shopping for engineers to design the disconnection of Mount Tabor. It seems like a very done deal indeed.

On the ultraviolet treatment plant, however, there's some important news buried way down in the story. It should have been the lead, actually, because up until now we've never heard it from anyone: The feds have turned over the decision on the need for the plant to the State of Oregon:

Last year, the EPA agreed to let Oregon's Public Health Division decide on Portland's variance. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., at a recent congressional hearing that the agency wouldn't veto any state decision.

But EPA scientists will advise, and it's unlikely the state would ignore strong EPA misgivings. The city plans to submit the variance request this spring, with a decision expected by year's end.

It might be time for Portland water ratepayers -- who are already being hammered and are going to be hit with much worse -- to start showing up at state offices to express their views on this. If they expect City Hall to take a strong stance on their behalf, they'll be deeply disappointed. The water bureau has more important things to do -- like run a Street of a Dreams and enforce the sign ordinances.

In fact, even if the state gives the city a break, it wouldn't be shocking to hear the Portland bureaucrats say "It's too late to turn back now." When they're spending money on construction pork that nobody needs, that's a familiar refrain.

Comments (15)

"The water bureau has more important things to do"

Like figuring how to extract even more money from ratepayers. Randy knows PWB is a good earner for him.

The outcome will be whatever results in the highest cost for ratepayers.

Parks dept is coming for an additional $200 million, by the way:

It's not too late to stop either wasteful unnecessary Portland Water Bureau project.
The open reservoirs can be saved, and we do not need additional treatment. Raise your voices, your pens, your phone calls to elected officials. Tell them you want a waiver that is a permanent solution. Not just a variance that is a temporary solution.

It sure is getting costly to live in the city of Portland. You've got local governance enlisting the help of Pro government forces at PSU to take advantage of impressionable young adults to vote and lobby others to vote in favor of almost any new tax scheme pushed by local government. Then you've got local businesses falling over themselves to fund campaigns in favor of all new tax schemes, as they stand to profit from the government largesse. These pro government forces are just enough to swing votes to the side of ever increasing spending on pipe dreams and the taxes to support the spending (except for a growing pile of debt, too).

Property taxes this November are set to jump over 15% from last November if the pro government forces are successful and they usually are in stump town. It is very irritating to have Northwest Natural Gas and PGE, our local utilities, contributing to the campaign to hike property taxes for a grossly over priced measure to rebuild a few public shools in this town. These utilities are guaranteed a ten percent return on their equity by the state of Oregon Public Utilities Commission. To have them also supporting the unjustified excessive taxation of their customers is really madness.

Definitely not too late to stop spending millions and millions more of our scarce public dollars to give to the very same corporations that apparently lobbied for the LT2 rule to begin with. Of course, our PWB under Leonard wants us to think all is done. In my view, they have tried to done deal this, but the water watchdogs have not given up and have become more visible with the truth, that must be very disheartening to Leonard who had planned to have the nail in the coffin by now.

Most troubling though is that our city council is going down the road to benefit those corporations rather than stand up for a most sustainable watershed and water system in the country. Many of us feel betrayed to be sold out in this way.

Picture our community and the devastation caused by these unwise council people. Many people have told me they will have to leave our city as the rate increases will force them to. Jobs, jobs, jobs, city talks, but acts to chase them out of here, businesses will leave and which ones would even consider coming in here? Maybe Leonard will try to give them a "special rate" and that of course would mean the residents would pay even more!

Look, this is not a pretty picture. . and all for a health problem that does not exist. . and if there is such a threat of cryptosporidium, then what about our swimming pools where the incidence of cryptosporidium does occur? Mandate to close them? or to spend millions more now to make some corporations rich selling filters?

What next, mandating our homes into a bubble, all bacteria free, now no immune system will be able to handle any bacteria unless we buy all some body suits and masks to leave our "bubble" - all this is turning into crazymaking!! I might add as compliments of the crazy making of our city council who know better, but just don't care!!

Cryptosporidium, in swimming pools?

Line up to buy expensive filtered swimsuits and diapers.

The Water Bureau's projected string of double-digit rate increases has caught the attention of the company and other big users. The bureau expects an 85 percent rate increase through 2015 for its 900,000 customers.

This has to be distressing economic news for businesses and big water users.

They and citizen groups who have been tenaciously holding the line, should align to stop the water bureau now before more projects move into design and those in design move into construction.

"An Enemy of the People" was required reading when I was in high school. Should water safety be mandated by the Federal Government or by local czars? We should be more concerned with removing water from our ethanol contaminated gasoline.

Here is what people CAN do to save money on open reservoir projects they don’t need:

1) Look at Rochester (NY) – The good folks in Rochester, New York, are in the same “cover or treat or disconnect” dilemma as Portland is with regard to open reservoirs. They originally dismissed the idea of adding a micro-treatment facility right at the open reservoirs, but have since discovered it is possible to retrofit their existing small, historic structures to house the equipment they need to “treat” the finished water once again. This will allow them to keep their reservoirs open at a FRACTION of the cost. Compare their $25 million compliance plan to the $400 million compliance plan cooked up by our local contractors. And you can see why cozy relationships between PWB staff and outside contractors are sinking our ship. If you want, read some of Rochester’s plan:

The Portland Water Bureau only gave the micro-treatment facility idea the smallest of glances, which never got any more technical than “preliminary thinking” (PWB’s own word choice - ). When community members and large businesses recently requested a look see at PWB’s detailed analysis of the micro-treatment option, they were provided three non-technical paragraphs written several years ago. That’s less analysis than I ran when I chose my hot water heater. Call David Shaff and Randy Leonard and insist they complete a thorough technical/cost analysis of a micro-treatment option. Of course, if you ask the well paid PWB engineers to do it, they’ll sit on their hands and whine that it can’t be done. Here’s the trick, tell them they can hire one of their consulting friends to do the work. They always love funneling money out that revolving door into the hands of their future employers.

2) Don’t throw good money after bad = KILL THE CONTRACTS. When David Shaff says, “Hell will freeze over,” before the reservoirs will be saved, he’s employing a tactic to maintain your apathy. My house catches on fire and I don’t just walk away and say, oh well, it’s burned now. No, I employ the fire department to stop the damage. Even if the Water Bureau has blown through $200 million on tanks we don’t need, that’s still $500 million (with interest) less than what this will cost us if we just sit back and take it. This bureau has mastered justifying cost over-runs, stop the bleeding wherever you can and the savings will grow exponentially.

3) Demand a whole council approach. A wide swath of citizens and businesses alike have called for LT2 issues to be handled by the entire City Council, and not just left to Randy Leonard. As educated citizens highlight the important facts about LT2 projects, Commissioners have repeatedly deferred to Commissioner Leonard in the face of their own confusion. This is not acceptable; demand that every Commissioner be accountable for each LT2 related step made within our water system.

4) Hold David and Randy accountable. Don’t let unreliable labor keep the job.

Supposedly, these are the people in Salem that now have jurisdiction (or primacy as the EPA calls it) over our LT2 issues. Note that part of the mission of the Drinking Water Program is to focus resources on areas of highest public health benefit. Remind them of that.

Fantastic post, S. Stewart. Thank you. Now everyone, take this info in the form of an email or letter to the local, state and Federal officials who need to act NOW.

...This bureau has mastered justifying cost over-runs, stop the bleeding wherever you can and the savings will grow exponentially...

Perhaps the "Masters of the Universe" have given their orders. The business community and citizens must insist on keeping the sustainable water system we have and not change into a universal corporate designed one, adding more toxic chemicals and more costs to operate.

4) Hold David and Randy accountable. Don’t let unreliable labor keep the job.

In my opinion, in other arenas, David and Randy would have been fired by now. A community's assets like a company's assets are to be held in trust and for best outcomes, not to be floundering in the wind as necessary steps are not taken to protect those assets. Those who care to look will see that ultimate fighting for our water was just not done!! All we got was a lick and a promise, and not even that. We have been manipulated down a very ugly road. If we cannot save our good water system, these two and others involved in this will go down in history as responsible for absolutely the worst political decision of our city.

We cannot allow our healthy drinking water to be seriously degraded.

This financial aspects of this will most likely create complete chaos for the citizens and businesses.

And that is just the start. Yearly maintenance for the UV plant will be in the millions.

Plus, the UV wont work without an additional filter treatment of Ozone (nasty stuff).

Oregon DEA, please give us relief from a classic case of Government overreach.

oops - THE financial aspects of this will most likely create complete chaos for the citizens and businesses.

Leonard and Council may have thought that after that July 2009 hearing people would eventually fade on this battle to save their water. Many citizens and organizations asked the Council then to request a delay from this LT2 Rule.

It is important for the people of Portland to know that our Council would NOT ask for a delay, but moved to go forward with expensive projects.

Egg on face now? How does this look to the Portland people knowing that New York City asked for and won a reprieve until 2028 and are now even requesting another delay until 2034? How does this make our Council look? It is becoming more and more transparent that they have not been on the side of public interest on this.

A Waiver is a permanent solution. The City has used the word variance as that is just a temporary solution and they could continue to spend more money. A Waiver is what we need from this whole mess and our Senators and now our State should work to get that for our community.


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Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
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