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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 11, 2011 10:23 AM. The previous post in this blog was Bring it on. The next post in this blog is All you need to know about Portland city government. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Water bureau pals spilled mercury near, or into, Columbia Slough

The private engineering company that's quietly been allowed to set up its equipment testing facility in the City of Portland drinking water well field has on at least two occasions had accidents that likely dumped small amounts of mercury into the nearby Columbia Slough, according to records filed with the state.

Carollo Engineers, which operates a large-scale commercial "validation" plant for ultraviolet water purification systems on city-owned property, has had bulbs break inside the "reactor" units that it was testing. The city, which is responsible for pollution at the site, was unable to assure the state that none of the mercury inside the bulbs leaked into the slough. In its reports to the state Department of Environmental Quality, the city emphasized that the amount of mercury in the bulbs was quite small, and that most of the mercury from inside the broken bulbs was recovered before it made it to the slough. Nonetheless, there was no way to tell for sure how much, if any, mercury made it into water. "It cannot be verified," the city wrote, "that all the mercury has been recovered and we must conservatively assume that some small fraction of the mercury might have been released to the Slough."

The accidents occurred on April 9, 2003 and May 11, 2007. The city's letters reporting the incidents to the DEQ are here. The state did not take action against the city or Carollo, and no testing was done of nearby sediments because there is already mercury in the slough, and stirring up the bottom might have made matters worse.

The state allowed the city to permit Carollo to build and start operating the testing plant in 2003, without any changes to the city's environmental permits for the well field. The permits allow the city to discharge groundwater into both the slough and the Columbia River. When Carollo started operating, the quantity of water being pumped out of the wells and then dumped increased a thousandfold. Instead of something like 6,000 gallons a day discharged, the amounts have increased to as much as 6 million gallons a day.

As we reported last month, in the year ended June 30, 2010, Carollo purchased 291.5 million gallons of water from the city, more than 60 million gallons more than the parks bureau and more than 125 million more than the public schools. Among the city's retail water customers, Carollo is second in consumed volume only to Siltronic Corp., the silicon chip maker, which purchased 549.2 million gallons that year.

Other large customers are charged five times the rate that Carollo pays the city for water. The city explains this by noting that the water it sells the firm is untreated.

Comments (10)

PWB misleads by saying the cost difference is beacause it's untreated? The chlorine is cheap to disinfect/gallon. The untold real cost is the expensive pump start-up, electricity, and maintenance wear/tear, that is not being disclosed or incorporated into the final "sweetheart deal" Carollo is getting. Good investigation Jack.

Does Ms Fritz know this?

This Ms Fritz:

"Portland commissioner Amanda Fritz, running for another term, is proud that in her first year in office, she came out against a recommendation by the Water Bureau to build an expensive direct filtration system. Instead, she supported was to build a cheaper ultraviolet system that would zap cryptosporidium from the city’s drinking water.

'In 2009, I saved ratepayers around $500 million by persuading the Council to pursue a less expensive compliance mechanism if the City is required to treat Bull Run drinking water," Fritz writes on her campaign literature. "I partnered with neighborhood and business advocates to get this done by arranging for a Council work session and public hearing, where citizens made clear that the less expensive option is more responsible. The result was a unanimous vote reversing the Water Bureau’s previous plan.'"
http://www.politifact.com/oregon/statements/2011/oct/11/amanda-fritz/did-amanda-fritz-persuade-portland-city-council-sa/

Those are "green" light bulbs as they use less energy supposedly than incandescents. It is not important they leak mercury as such energy efficiency makes the green nazi zombies of stump town delusionally happy. These zombies are capable of only processing visible partial effect, and can not grasp the dynamics of secondary and tertiary effects nor can they grasp the concept of tradeoff.

Amanda Fritz likes to use that $500 million to make herself look good that she didn’t vote for the most expensive plant. At that 2009 hearing many know she could have saved the $100-200 million for our community if she had simply voted NO period for any UV treatment plant.

By the way I believe that at that hearing the city said that they would then work on two tracks, one to move forward with a UV plant and another to see what they could do regarding a variance from the EPA LT2 rule. Don’t see that they did much of anything on the track needed to stop this LT2 rule from putting our community in horrendous debt.

NY Senator Schumer then asked EPA last summer to abandon covering a reservoir there, as too costly and burdensome for NY, they like we have not had any problems with their system. EPA responded that they would consider another look at the rule and that science would prevail.

Our elected officials have essentially been silent about any ask, guess Senator Merkley is still waiting for our city council to ask him to ask for a Waiver for our community as Senator Schumer has done for his community from that EPA LT2 rule.

Now that Jack brought this up about the mercury, Amanda Fritz needs to be engaged on this matter.
She oversees the Office of Healthy Working Rivers, seems to me she needs to check into this immediately for our community about what is going on out there by those well fields.

It wouldn't take a whole lot to determine the amount of mercury in a single tube times number of tubes broken minus amount of mercury recovered = amount of mercury introduced to slough. This then can be accurately reported to the state for fines and mediation.

dman,

I was thinking the same thing...

I noted these paragraphs in the letters from the Portland Water Bureau to DEQ:

April 14, 2003 letter:

At approximately 0915, Carollo Engineers collected a grab sample from an upstream location of the discharge point within the Columbia Slough. A sample was also collected downstream of the discharge point about 0926. These samples were stored in a refrigerator on site and were subsequently sent to a certified lab. The results of those analyses were not available for this report.

May 17, 2007 letter:

Carollo Engineers collected a grab sample from the isolated section of the process piping downstream of the reactor on the afternoon of May 14, 2007. This sample was stored in a refrigerator on site and was subsequently sent to a certified lab for analysis. The results were not available for this report.

Maybe doesn't mean much, but why were both of these letters sent without results available for the report? ....were the results ever available?

Or is this what one can't see or hear about in detail somehow best for everyone involved kind of thing?

We need to keep shedding light on this matter. UV filtration will cost a fortune to install and maintain AND will likely have periodical mercury leaks into our water system.

Hey City Council! Wake the Hell up and stop this corporate takeover of our water system.

We don't want the debt and we sure as Hell don't want the poison.

Where are the Portland Fire and Rescue HAZ-MAT hazardous waste incident reports for a mercury spill? Methinks they have been expunged.

The April 14, 2003 letter:

The Water Bureau has an agreement with Carollo Engineers to supply them un-chlorinated groundwater for purposes of validating the performance of UV reactors. Although Carollo Engineers has responsibility for operation of the temporary UV Validation Facility at the Ground Water Pump Station, the disposal of the test water is being done under the Bureau’s existing NPDES permit....

Temporary facility in 2003?
It is now 2011.
Where is the agreement letter with details?
Who in the water bureau arranged this deal and why?
What was the rate agreed to in 2003? ....has that rate increased or not?....is that why our schools are paying five times or more for water than this company? Who knows, maybe they got a contract for years of cheap rates.
Our rates sure are increasing year after year and 85% in five years if we can’t get our council to stop the path PWB is on.
Many questions here....not so sure answers will be forthcoming.

How much would we the public have to pay to find out what is going on with "our" water?

How much would we the public have to pay to make certain that the water remains in public hands and to stop any takeover as a result of enormous PWB debt? It may be that the only channel to stop this is legal, because our elected officials aren't helping!! Thank you Portland Water Bureau, City Council and to anyone else that could've helped but hasn't for betraying the people and the people's water!!


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