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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 8, 2011 11:05 AM. The previous post in this blog was More dismantling of Fareless Square ahead. The next post in this blog is A bit of revisionism at Portland Schools. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Second biggest Portland water user is -- huh?

Yesterday we tantalized readers with this question: Who's the second largest consumer of water purchased from the Portland Water Bureau? None of our usually well informed readers knew the correct answer.

And we can't say that we blame them for not knowing, because it's a company that they probably have never heard of. Certainly we hadn't until some alert readers showed it to us.

According to this document, which was produced at City Hall, it's an outfit called Carollo Engineers. In the year ended June 30, 2010, that firm purchased 291.5 million gallons of water, more than 60 million gallons more than the parks bureau and more than 125 million more than the public schools. Carollo is second in consumed volume only to Siltronic Corp., the silicon chip maker, which purchased 549.2 million gallons that year.

So who in the heck is Carollo Engineers, and what are they doing with all that water?

As best we can tell, Carollo is a private company that designs, tests, and oversees construction of ultraviolet treatment equipment that other private companies, such as Berson, Calgon and Wedeco, build and sell to municipal water systems that need UV treatment. Carollo has built a central testing facility out at the city's Columbia well fields (out beyond Costco on Airport Way), and it runs all those hundreds of millions of gallons of Portland water through the facility in order to test the effectiveness of the manufacturers' equipment before it is shipped off to the water system customers around the country, and even overseas. As Carollo explains on its website:

To receive inactivation credit with UV disinfection, the USEPA will require that UV systems undergo performance validation testing. Until recently, UV systems installed in the U.S. were validated either on site or at a facility in Europe. Recognizing a need for a U.S. facility, Carollo independently initiated its own survey to find a location to develop a validation facility. We identified the City of Portland’s South Shore Well Field as an ideal location for such an activity. It can provide 90 mgd of chlorine-free, low UV-absorbance groundwater at a constant flowrate and has a NPDES permit that allows us to discharge the test water to the Columbia River. We struck an agreement with Portland to develop a test center adjacent to their 2-mgd reservoir tank.
Carollo obtained funding for development of the facility from two UV system suppliers: Calgon Carbon Corporation and WEDECO Ideal Horizons. We designed the facility in November 2002, and construction started in February 2003. Carollo is responsible for managing the facility and conducting all testing. This includes coordinating site use between the two participating UV vendors, logistics, test protocol development, testing, data analysis, and reporting. Carollo commissioned the site in March 2003 with the testing of a 40-mgd, medium-pressure UV system supplied by Calgon. Since then, Carollo has tested six different large-scale UV reactors at flowrates ranging from 1 to 42 mgd at UV transmittance values ranging from 70 to 98 percent. This testing comprises over 320 challenge tests using MS2 coliphage to demonstrate UV doses ranging from 20 to 80 mJ/cm2.

When they're through testing the water, they dump it into the Columbia Slough, apparently under a permit that the city had previously obtained from the state DEQ to allow discharges.

It's amazing to us that we've never heard of this deal, which has been in place for nearly a decade. And as we consider it now for the first time, a number of questions pop right up:

First of all, Carollo is getting a darn good price. It's no. 2 in usage, but it's no. 17 in what it paid the city for water. For its 291 million gallons, it paid the city just $0.000643 a gallon. Compare that with what the school district was charged for its 165 million gallons: $.003688 a gallon. The schools got charged more than five times as much per gallon as Carollo. The parks bureau paid about the same as the schools -- $0.003428. Siltronic, the city's top non-wholesale customer, paid $.003227 a gallon -- again, five times what Carollo paid.

What is up with that?

Another question that springs to mind is the effect of all this pumping on groundwater quality in the well field. As we remember it, there's a fair amount of pollution in the ground not far from there. Once upon a time there were some ugly industrial processes going on out that way -- we seem to recall the name Boeing being mentioned in this connection -- and as we have understood it all these years, the more pumping out of the wells, the more likely it is that the pollution is going to reach those wells.

Now, it's been our impression that the wells are used only sparingly. Indeed, every August the water bureau makes a big deal out of announcing that they're blending well water in with Bull Run. The illusion has been that the well field mostly sits untouched. Well, no way -- Carollo's grabbing close to 300 million gallons out of there a year.

And what is going out the other end of Carollo's pipe, into the Columbia Slough? Do the ultraviolet bulbs ever break, sending mercury into the water? The testing apparently involves injecting microbes into the water -- what happens when the ultraviolet systems don't completely kill them? Let's hope some enterprising environmental sorts take a hard look at that discharge system.

The larger question that this quiet little deal raises is how sincere the city really is in opposing the budget-busting treatment systems that federal regulators have been pushing for several years now. If the water bureau's been entering into major contracts with the ultraviolet treatment folks behind the curtains (Is there a land lease from the city to the company?), one has to wonder what other kinds of transactions have already been entered into with those firms that the public knows nothing about.

The city's refusal to keep fighting the unfunded federal mandates of ultraviolet treatment and underground reservoirs has always seemed quite curious. And now we see that the city has made a sweet backroom deal with the treatment people, seemingly without any public involvement or awareness. It's unseemly, to say the least -- there's sort of a faint Ellis McCoy aura about the whole thing.

Anyway, there's more here to consider. But just the fact that this facility exists, and at this scale, is (if you'll pardon the expression) enough to absorb for one day.

Comments (25)

Jack, this is amazing. If only the WW would pick up this story and help shed some light under yet another Portland slimy rock.

Maybe we need a list of all the Carollo executives' beach house rentals?

Of course the company gets a water rate discount. It is located at 16400 NE AIRPORT WAY and per PortlandMaps.com, the property is owned by the Portland Water Bureau.

Great work Jack. Another uncovering of grossly questionable acts of PWB. Where does it end with these people?

Jack, once again, thanks for connecting the outlets. There's more, certainly. And I hope Nigel Jacquiss can win another Pulitizer (or you) for totally filling in the pond.

Spotlight, a big spotlight on the PWB!!!
We need investigative reporters on this matter, and our elected officials.
How many know what is going on,
...if they did know, when did they know and then why are they so very silent?
Why is the public being left out, except to pay and pay and for what?

Do you suppose that the Fireman will get a job with Carollo when he retires from his duties with the CoP? And at what salary?

So the reason that the PWB has been fast-tracking the EPA LT2 rule- where other cities have been actively opposing it - is likely related to the relationship with this private UV treatment firm?

Can we now say that the PWB is run as a fascist organization? Where we use the classic definition of fascism as government run by private corporate interests.

And remember it is not just this firm, but several engineering firms full of ex-PWB employees that get no-bid (or backroom bid) contracts.

To add more to this provocative piece, was not a signatory on letters from the Portland Water Users Coalition which has been lobbying the city to avoid spending $500 million for LT2 requirements.

The core large businesses (and large water users) that are part of that coalition are mentioned here:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/03/business-commissioned_poll_fin.html

They are a water utility engineering company. Probably they are doing work for the city's water bureau.

Corporations view public water utilities as a vast unexploited profit-stream. It is not surprising to find this cozy relationship right in our backyard. Water corporations would love to turn our untreated water into a "value-added" manufactured product. Our city officials, who see a future for themselves in the private water sector, are aiding and abetting this takeover at every turn. Wake up, Portland!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yJJWXhXbuI

A cover-up too evil to be true.... I think Chinatown's water theme is back in play in puddletown again.

Through a public information request several years back I uncovered this corporate deal as part of research related to the many corporate plans for our water system.

In order to keep this controversial land-leasing UV validation facility plan secret the Water Bureau brought the ordinance to City Council Christmas week, if memory serves me it was 2002, the year lots of cozy PWB deals were made with multinationals. Back then no documents were posted online so no one would be the wiser. That is until persistent watchdogs like FOR dug deep.

Friends of the Reservoirs and supporters have been aware of this for a long-time. If you scroll way back on our website you might even see a mention of it.

Jack,
To answer your question do the bulbs break releasing mercury into the water?

YES.
Mercury bulbs have repeatedly broken at this site. I have the documents supporting this obtained through public info requests.

No Bureau press releases when this happens as it doesn't fit with the propaganda campaign in support of unnecessary construction of a UV Radiation facility in the watershed where bulbs would also break. The current absurd Bureau plan to address breakage is to use the pipes or conduits as the catch basin for the mercury.

Given that the excuse (EPA regulation) for building a plant is now in line for EPA revision given the fact that the science doesn't support the requirement,
no UV Radiation plant should ever be built.

Robert -

It says "they struck an agreement" (i.e. public/private partnership) and they're doing work for their 'bottom line'....Don't you think it would be worth mentioning by the bureau that they have a partnership agreement with the 'big players' in UV and it just might color their opinion of whether or not we need it?

Any other company would have to apply for their own NPDES permit.

Adam Carollo promised Randy Leonard a spot on his show, hence the ridiculously low rates.

Wonder how many other surprises we will see. Thank you for bringing this matter up, those of us who have been questioning the PWB and city council for all the unnecessary treatment plans welcome the additional individuals who should demand answers to all of this.

Doesn't some of what our city leaders are doing fall under the ridiculously expensive wastes that are being questioned at the federal level!

Thank you Jack.....lets get some more reporting and research into this angle to help prevent the huge rate increases in our water.

What Floy hasn't told us is that she and her friends have supported unnecessary UV treatment at Bull Run, July 2009, and UV treatment at the open reservoir outlets. Seems counterintuitive to us.

This is outrageous!
Our rates go up, affecting businesses and jobs, and citizens of our area to what ... subsidize multinational's testing by giving them plenty of our water at lowest rates!!

What does our community get out of all of this except for us to pay more and more and possibly getting mercury, and whatever else they are testing into our river?

Who is this water bureau working for anyway? We are being used!!

Worried about privatization? - looks like we are in the loop already as our bureau is conducting itself as that, showing their allegiance to corporations and turning their backs on the people with absolutely no concern of stewardship of our vital resource, our water. They also show no concern of the financial health or health period of our community.

The whole scene of our PWB looks worse by the week, cannot trust them at all. What else do they not want us to know about??

Where are the Feds. This is classic theft of honest services if ever there was a case. Not holding my breath though.

But has anything actually illegal occured? Otherwise, the lawfully elected guardians of the public trust were merely poor choices.

IS ANYTHING ILLEGAL?

THAT IS THE QUESTION WHICH WOULD REQUIRE A LOT MORE INFORMATION. "CONFLICTS OF INTEREST" VIOLATE ETHICS.....WHICH GETS TO CERTAIN PEOPLE SOMETIMES. THE CITY CLAIMS THAT EVEN THE "APPEARANCE" OF AN ETHICS VIOLATION IS ENOUGH TO REQUIRE ACTION. SO, IF IT IS THE "CITY" THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? IF PROJECTS THAT ARE 'NON-WATER' RELATED ARE QUESTIONABLE, HOW ABOUT GIVING A BIG BREAK TO A COMPANY THAT VARIES FROM THE PUBLISHED RATES....IT CERTAINLY DOESN'T ENCOURAGE SUPPORT FROM THOSE WHO AREN'T GETTING IT. IT PUTS MORE PRESSURE ON WATER USERS TO PICK UP THE SLACK FOR WHAT THOSE OTHERS AREN'T PAYING. IT RESULTS IN MILLIONS IN $$SAVINGS OVER THE PUBLISHED RATES.....MORE MONEY TO DONATE TO POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS? AGAIN, NEED MORE DETAIL.

WHAT IS IN ALL THAT WATER THAT THEY ARE DUMPING (IF THAT'S WHAT THEY'RE DOING?) AND USING SOMEONE ELSE'S PERMIT? MERCURY IS A DEFINITE POSSIBILITY IN A PLACE THAT IS ALREADY IN TROUBLE BECAUSE OF IT. WHY DID THEY GET TO DO THAT WHEN EVERY LITTLE COMPANY HAS TO FILL OUT NUMEROUS FORMS AND PAY FEES? IS THERE A LAW IN THAT SITUATION?

IS IT ILLEGAL????THERE ARE DEFINITE POSSIBILITIES!!!

Mr.Grumpy,
Would it matter if anything actually illegal occured?
What would they get, a $95. fine?

In this Stumptown, sometimes all we have to pick from are poor choices.

Some who would be on the side of the public choose to not enter that arena, when it is filled with, can't come up with a word now other than yuk!
I keep writing about, the "insider game" here, the set-ups, the hypocrisy. It needs to end before our city goes further in this downward spiral.

Dance around removing the additional $1 billion from the yuk's tills and add in a dash of predatory trader loss of millions
in interest and debt acceleration, and I know, clinamen, the music
will permeate your spirit.

Hey Grumpy..... if someone made arrangements (and there had to be some quid pro quo somewhere) to allow the second biggest water user to get water rates other than the going water rates, I could the the lovely Federal charge - theft of honest services.... does that work for you?


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