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Friday, June 3, 2011

Radon in Portland water more than doubles

We got the latest water quality report from the Portland water bureau in the mail the other day. As usual, it is 12 full-color pages, just shy of 8.5-by-11 inches, and allegedly costing the city 29 cents per copy to produce and mail (about 335,000 copies last year). It's required by federal law, but it's a lot slicker and more extensive than it needs to be. What federal law requires could probably fit on one 8.5-by-14 inch sheet that got tucked in with your water bill. But that wouldn't satisfy the hungry maw of bureaucratic public relations, and so we all get the fancy version.

For all its page length, lush photography, detailed graphics, and propaganda heat (including the official version of why we need to spend zillions satisfying federal mandates about problems we don't have), the brochure leaves something to be desired. Most importantly, it shows no trends from year to year -- it's just a snapshot from 2010. Having kept last year's version of the flyer, we can fill in that gap.

One trend that jumps right out is a big jump in the amount of radon, a radioactive gas, detected in the water. In the 2009 brochure, the average concentration detected was 145 picocuries per liter. In the 2010 brochure, it's up to 310 picocuries per liter. No explanation is offered for the increase. A metal known as vanadium is also up, from an average of 0.6 parts per trillion in 2009 to 4.9 parts per trillion in 2010. To our untrained eye, the rest of the readings stayed in the same range, except for lead in the distribution system (not in homes), which thankfully declined from a maximum of 5 parts per billion in 2009 to 0.15 parts per billion in 2010.

Curiously gone from the new brochure is all mention of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, such as Advil and birth control drugs, which have been found in the system in the past. There's no mention of what current testing shows about those. Maybe they've stopped looking -- the city's website shows the last test for those substances as being in August 2009.

Anyway, you can see that 29 cents on your next water bill. It's in there right next to neon rose sign.

Comments (9)

The radon increase is likely due to the enclosed reservoirs - the open ones that we aren't supposed to use any more (for health reasons)don't allow the stuff to build up. 8 pages of stuff (though it does have a spiffy map of the Bull Run system). Did you notice that Randy's "incredibly confident" about the water supply? Doesn't that mean "not credibly confident"?

I just did a story for a website called, "Neighborhood Notes" about the problem of radon gas. The health concerns are from breathing it if it accumulates in the basement, etc...The EPA claims that 21,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer caused by radon gas. Second only to cigarettes. I didn't see anything about getting it out of the water.
My story is called, "Radon Gas: Do I Detect a Problem?" if you want to check it out.

I bet it's more likely coming from the groundwater pulled from the Columbia River wellfield to supplement the Bull Run supply. I'd wager that's where all the nasty synthetic stuff is coming from, including the pharmaceuticals they found earlier but curiously find no need to monitor on an ongoing basis. Deer and bird poop at Bull Run and the open-air reservoirs will give the "natural" contamination of E. Coli, etc. Water percolating through soil in urbanized areas along the Columbia River--including all the industrial sites there--would give us the heavy metals, as well as radon from the granite deposited in the riverbed by the Missoula Floods. I always thought it was a little disingenuous of the PWB to tout the all-natural purity of the rain- and snow-fed portion of the water supply while neglecting to mention the witches' brew they pump from the ground and mix in with it during peak demand.

The alleged "poop" and E.coli have never been a problem, even when PWB tries to create an event. Open reservoirs are the answer to continued good public health.

Open reservoirs are good for a lot but the PWB pays a lot of people a lot of money to keep that information suppressed and distorted. They even TWEET about it - "bird poop found in reservoir!" If the PWB, Randy Leonard and their buddy/neighbor Joe Glicker have their way (which I am always hopeful that they will NOT), radon will become a very large problem, no matter how many vents the PWB says they are going to have on the enclosed tanks. Also, look up nitrification and covered water storage. Yet another BAD reason to cover drinking water storage such as our reservoirs.

Clearly, there is a Radon Reduction Surcharge in PWB's future. Thanks for pointing this out, Jack.

What a ridiculous waste of money. Can these bureaucrats spell Chernobyl? Darfur? Bangladesh? Ethiopia? Nepal? Nigeria?

While our friends in Saudi Arabia fund indoctrination centers for Pakistani tweens to feed the suicide bomb machine, and women in China and India are busy aborting their female fetuses, we spend tax money on glossy mailers about how fabulous our drinking water is.

What a strange, strange world.

Cost of $0.29 to produce this mailer AND mail it out; makes me wonder why it costs so much to get water to my house and waste away from it. Sounds like a load of crap to me.

I recall that in the 1980's a Portland City Councilor briefly advocated diapering all deer and elk in the Bull Run area.

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