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Monday, September 12, 2011

Portland water bureau played poker on Carollo deal

Last week, we wrote about a startling discovery -- a private company has been quietly operating a commercial water treatment testing facility on Portland water bureau property at the Columbia River well field for many years. The firm, Carollo Engineers, is the second largest consumer of Portland water -- nearly 300 million gallons one recent year-- and it pays a rate for the water far cheaper than any other customer, including the school district and the parks bureau. It also gets to piggyback on a city permit to dump treated water into the nearby Columbia Slough.

On its website, Carollo points out that the plant was operational in March 2003, and it was (and is) intended to provide a testing facility for ultraviolet water treatment equipment to be sold throughout the country, and in other parts of the world. Since then, the Carollo plant has apparently tested and validated more than 30 systems that then went for installation at water systems all over.

An alert reader has pointed us to an interesting document that indicates that the water bureau didn't disclose its arrangement with Carollo, and the existence of the facility, to the city's public utility rate board when board members inquired about UV testing in February 2004. Here's an exchange from the minutes of the rate board meeting of February 18, 2004 (read into the minutes of the March 18, 2004 meeting). "Loren" and "Scott" are Loren Lutzenhiser and Scott Fernandez, members of the board, and "Dennis" is Dennis Kessler, an official from the water bureau. They're talking about the city's tentative plans for UV treatment of its water supply, in response to federal mandates:

Scott: Two years ago UV was priced at $20 million as a cost to implement. We encouraged that direction because of the cost, not the technology. Then it soon went up to $55 million, then to $60 million, and now up to $102 million 2 years later. What do we project the price to be when the time comes if we go in that direction?

Dennis: There are still some things to be worked out on that technology. Part of this is costs due to storage that we didn’t prioritize. A big chunk is the storage issue. The other part is some type of a clear well depending on where you put it. If you put it at the headworks, you can utilize the head of the dams and you have the contact time for other types of disinfection from where it leaves the headworks until it gets into town. And you don’t have to pump. If you start moving this downstream, you will have to pump and it becomes more expensive – locating it and piping to and from the site. Plus backup power, what do you do with power outages?...

Unknown: In the slides you identified UV at Lusted Hill at $103 million but in this report it’s tagged at $20.5 million on page 11. How do you reconcile this?

Dennis: This is just the first 5 years of the project. Look at page 5, only seeing a small part of treatment, the big costs are out beyond 5 years.

Loren: What’s included for $20 million? Planning and design?

Dennis: It’s looking at configuration and effectiveness of the disinfection. It is different in every water system. Our water is pretty significantly different. At this stage there is no (UV) plant the size we are talking about in operation. It’s a fairly new technology at this size of application. So there’s figuring that all out. The first 3 years of this is looking at alternative concepts and probably the last 2 years is primarily design. And a lot of permitting too.

Loren: Are salaries a part of this or a combination of contracts?

Dennis: It’s primarily consulting....

Scott: Already have a UV test facility pilot in place?

Dennis: We have one on the groundwater system and we have been having trouble with it.

Scott: Is there a national facility somewhere?

Dennis: I’m not aware of that.

Scott: What has been the problem with it?

Dennis: The main problem is light bulb breakage. Then what do you do with the mercury in the water, and the glass and debris, and the down time? That is the big problem they are having. If something happens, you need a place to put the water to deal with it -- the by-product.

It is hard to believe that Kessler didn't know that the Portland Carollo plant, going for nearly a year at that point, was intended to be a national facility, with outside customers, and built to run for many years. And he certainly wasn't forthcoming about the Carollo connection when it certainly would have been appropriate to describe it.

Meanwhile, his remarks about the problems that were being encountered with UV treatment in Portland have got to make one wonder what was going out the pipe and into the slough from the Carollo plant at that time. Or is going out now, for that matter.

Comments (18)

guilty guilty guilty!!!

Mercury in the water huh? And why is Portland subsidizing/spearheading this new technology? Ahh!

If we act quickly maybe we can get them to pack up and move to Vancouver.

Why did the cost go up to $102 Million in two years? Maybe because they had the PWB in their back pocket?

This is what you call the Ca-Rollo-Right-Over-You effect.

Least he had a brief moment of candor acknowledging the money was "primarily consulting." Grease those palms. Revolve that door.

A good friend of mine is a member of PURB.

I intend to suggest to him that all future CoP employee witnesses providing oral statements or testimony to PURB be required to take the same oath administered to trial witnesses in Oregon courts.

Its not just PURB being at best, deceived, by Water Bureau witnesses..

Look at the Legislative committees hearing testimony from the various ODOT employees over the years on the emergency communications network project.

Agency employee witnesses have to have the fear of jail time for perjury put into them.

Hellooooo! This is the Water Bureau you poor Portlanders. Headed up by a guy named Shaff (appropriate name for you rate payers - if you get the joke). Shaff's credentials?

Is he a hydrologist? No.

Is he an engineer? No.

Does he have any recognized credentials for heading up a water supply? No.

Well then - how the heck did he beome the Director for the Water Bureau?

He is a Randy Cronie! The only credential that means anything in Portland.

So what was the deal?
Getting LT2 in the door by political means, not based on science - then using LT2 to force communities to comply with EPA LT2 whether the community has a problem or not - one size rule fits all, all must now pay - so this rule could become very profitable for certain corporations!

PWB then does not seriously work for or ask for a delay, instead tells us we have to do this, on a fast track deadline, while NY got a reprieve until 2028.

Meanwhile PWB holds LT2 over our heads to raise the rates 85% in five years and who knows how much more after that?? More money needed they tell us for more consulting, after we have tested and tested. EPA only asks for 500 liters a year in polluted areas, PWB has done as I recall thousands and thousands of liters in about two years.

Fernandez in a Dec. 2010 council hearing testified that the tests had come in, we did not have a problem, council should stop the spending, that the variance process had been a failed strategy and that he wanted council to ask for a Waiver from EPA. Council once again would not listen and voted to spend another $600,000 on consultants, and in Jan. 2011 another several hundred thousand dollars more for consultants to analyze the testing.

This LT2 ordeal has not made any sense, to be over a billion in debt for a problem that does not exist?? Well, NOW WE FIND OUT!!
We never had that problem, the big problem we have is that something else seems to be going on behind the scenes.

Our community has been lied to, abused, and used!! Our hard earned money, our water turned over to multinational corporations for a very low rate to do their apparently world wide testing and we have paid and paid and it won't end. The money, and now our river, what have they put into it?? Someone in that water bureau years ago sold us down the river.

Who is behind all of this?
Who knew?
When did they know?

This is downright cruel - making people pay huge rates for an essential need, our water and wrecking our current water system in the process. Who knows what else is in the works! What other deals have been made?
Loss of our water rights?
Toxic chemicals in our drinking water?
Injecting microbes into our river?
Mercury in our environment?
What is the end result here of PWB's plans for all of us?
Drinking Willamette River water?

Those heading the PWB should be fired! Not one person who went along with all of this should remain. Those in council who knew of the deals should be recalled!
Their plans, stonewalling our community and creating enormous debt may lead to losing our precious water rights by the time they are done.

Leave the good water bureau workers in place to take care of the basics for us, am sure they are as sick of the whole mess as we are.

Thank you Jack for such a timely investigative report. The Portland Water Bureau was very upset I asked for a verbatim summary of the discussion that night. Time has shown what we thought then to be correct now.
The idea of using ground water as a it applies to surface water illustrates the fraud we call EPA LT2 science. This time of year we begin to see "fall color" from dropping leaves into the Bull Run water. The fall leaves are an absolutely safe and healthy part of a natural drinking water system. Natural organic materials are part of the Bull Run benefits. The ground water being tested at PWB does not apply to us because the fall surface water particulates can reflect UV light making it unproductive. There are no benefits of UV radiation to our Bull Run system because we don't have a public health problem. We don't have a public health problem because we don't have sewage exposures. It's just that simple. It's time again to call for a complete Congressional/EPA LT2 Waiver. Stop wasting time and money on this scientifically flawed regulation.

Dear Mr. Attorney General Kroger....Wake up!

Or else just start putting birds on your inane press releases.

Come on Portland people. Who will be the courageous ones
who continue to expose these conflict of interest deals? Isn't Carollo a subsidiary
of CH2MHILL who's VP , Mr. Glicker, was head of our Water
Bureau before he revolve doored himself into CH2MHill? The sweetest deal making fat cats could design. Spokane and New Orleans summarily dumped CH2MHill. Let's get it done, Portland.

Dear DOJ prosecutors in Oregon, wake the eff up and do your jobs and start going after this stuff.

Me thinks the DOJ prosecutors are awaiting instructions from Neil.

"Come on Portland people. Who will be the courageous ones
who continue to expose these conflict of interest deals? Isn't Carollo a subsidiary
of CH2MHILL who's VP , Mr. Glicker, was head of our Water
Bureau before he revolve doored himself into CH2MHill? The sweetest deal making fat cats could design. Spokane and New Orleans summarily dumped CH2MHill. Let's get it done, Portland."

Thank you, Scott and Floy Jones,
for keeping the facts alive and available for the last decade. You two, along with so many others, but you two in particular, have basically given your life over for the cause of saving Portland's pristine, public water system.

You've endured the lies, personal attacks, and somehow weathered the discouraging civic lessons of fighting Portland City Hall. Thank you for your ferocious dedication to documenting the path to privatize and degrade our public works,(esp. given the weakening conditions of the FOIA, Freedom of Information Act), and attending countless meetings over so many years. Most of those meetings, without one or both of you present, would have had no public voice, eyes or ears in the room. Maybe, just maybe, there is still time to save our pure water, AND keep it a public asset. Without your hard work, Scott and Floy, this chance for Portlanders to take back their water rights might not be possible.

"Come on Portland people....

Perhaps Portland people for years had it so good, didn't have to or learn to stand up to fight. Now that the house of cards may be falling down, they may very well not realize the seriousness of the matter, may be in denial, simply do not know what to do or just think that their leaders or others will take care of matters.

That doesn't excuse the "insiders" for taking advantage of the rest, and it doesn't help that most of the media here won't inform the people or allow reporters to do the investigative reporting that needs to be done.

That doesn't excuse the prosecutors for what? laying down on matters?

As for newcomers, many may still be enamored with the bike paths, etc, green and sustainable message and "appearances" -
Look behind the curtain, how sustainable is it to have mercury bulbs in a system and microbes being injected into water here, this with city leader's blessing??

Dennis: The main problem is light bulb breakage. Then what do you do with the mercury in the water, and the glass and debris, and the down time? That is the big problem they are having. If something happens, you need a place to put the water to deal with it -- the by-product.

Re: "making people pay huge rates for an essential need"


Mr Shaff does not focus on water as "an essential need." Speaking on OPB's TOL in April, he compared water to "other utilities" and opined that "[w]ater is the cheapest commodity one has to have to survive." It's in here, toward the end:

The concept of minimizing the cost of water to residents is not endorsed by Mr Shaff and the City Council; instead, they emulate Bechtel in considering water merely a source of revenue:

The other professional shortcomings in Mr Shaff's résumé have been noted by commenters. Shortcomings in the résumés and temperaments of city commissioners are common knowledge.

Re: "Perhaps Portland people for years had it so good, didn't have to or learn to stand up to fight."

No question about that. Nor about the necessity to fight against dishonest leadership.

One avenue of resistance might have been via neighborhood associations; but that structure has, for the most part, been compromised by ONI, which has turned it into a vehicle for instructing residents in what they should be thinking about city management: top down rather than bottom up.

Apparently, David Shaff's main experience is in labor relations which is a very important element of privatization. Those type co's typically operate with 50% fewer employees than public systems according to www.reason.org reports. So, as maintenance backlog languishes around 35,000 backlogged hours and maintenance workers get laid-off, they are moving towards a desired goal of those who will assume control when the debt gets too big. Randy tried to save some of those jobs by giving them work to do...any work....the Rose Festival new cheap headquarters, even gave them overtime. Apparently the ones who don't really count for anything are the ones who pay the water bills.....we'll let them pay...they'll pay for anything! Also, the "water house" of "green practices" is something the EPA likes to play up at conferences but again, not very popular with ratepayers. David can save expenses on gas by just walking down the street to his friend and neighbor, Joe Glicker, and ask him what's happening. Doesn't seem like a real response to the community's concern about consultants, to appoint a new head in 2005 who happens to be personally so connected??

One avenue of resistance might have been via neighborhood associations;...

There are over 90 NH Associations in Portland.
A few have stepped out to protect our water,
the majority apparently have been silent.
What is that all about?
Do they think it is OK to have toxic chemicals added to their drinking water
and a 85% rate increase?

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