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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Portland City Hall says reservoirs are falling apart

Admiral Randy and his henchpeople in the Portland water bureau -- currently in litigation over their propensity for spending water revenue illegally -- are hellbent on replacing the city's open air reservoirs with outrageously expensive underground tanks. The reason given up until now is that the open reservoirs are a safety hazard, and every once in a while a boil water scare has been thrown in to make their point.

But now there's a different point. In response to city commissioner Amanda Fritz's suggestion that the city merely cover the reservoirs with plastic -- a cheap solution that would last at least 15 years -- the Admiral and his bureaucrat buddies say that the reservoirs are not only unsafe, but deteriorating:

To the casual passer-by the reservoirs may look fine, particularly when full. From an engineering perspective, that is not the case. These century old reservoirs are rated in "Poor Condition" as bureau assets. Over 100 years of the combined effects of temperature changes, weathering and loading have literally worn the reservoirs out. Each time the bureau drains the open reservoirs, every 6 months or so, the bureau patches and repairs. Severe joint failure is becoming more and more common. Cracking and spalling (chunks breaking off), particularly in the wetted zones, is evident everywhere.

Flexible liners have been added to three (two hypalon and one asphalt) of the five reservoirs to both reduce leakage from the reservoirs and prevent the intrusion of groundwater. Properly functioning concrete reservoirs do not need flexible liners. It is telling commentary on the poor condition of the reservoirs that liners had to be added. It is similarly telling how long ago the liners started being added. In the case of Reservoir 6 the asphalt liner was added in 1965 to repair leaks. Reservoir 3 had a hypalon liner installed first in 1978 and then replaced in 2003. Reservoir 5 had a hypalon liner installed in 1998. The life of the hypalon liners is about 15-20 years.

The liners do not solve the long term problem. They stop leakage and intrusion for a time. But the reinforced concrete continues to undergo all the effects listed above. Structurally, the reinforced concrete basins continue to deteriorate. Risk increases for more damaging types of failure and the bureau is at a disadvantage because personnel cannot see under the liners. Liners obviously do nothing for the risks associated with open exposure to the environment outlined above.

Design standards have advanced greatly since the 1900s. Design standards and formulae used in the 1900s were much simpler and did not account for many of the risks and conditions that are common practice today. Current analytical tools result in much stronger designs, designs that can handle a wider variety of conditions. Of particular relevance, is the improved understanding of earthquakes, the forces earthquakes generate and solutions to resist earthquake forces. The open reservoirs do not meet current seismic design standards. The Water Bureau's open reservoirs would likely be severely damaged and likely not hold water in the event of a significant earthquake like an earthquake occurring on the East Bank Fault, West Hills Fault or from the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

If the reservoirs are to remain operational for any length of time, they need extensive infrastructure repairs, renewal and modernization. All of the open reservoirs are over 100 years old and have exceeded their life expectancy and are due for replacement regardless of what happens with LT2.

Due to the condition of the floors and walls of the reservoirs, liners and covers would be required. Liners and floating covers whether temporary or permanent limit access to the reservoir for making repairs and maintenance of the structure itself. The necessary repairs and improvements should all occur before covering the reservoirs; otherwise the investment in liners and covers will be lost until some future Council authorizes the needed work.

As usual, there's only one workable solution, and that's to do as Randy tells you.

Comments (17)

Funny, isn't it, that this comes out now just as litigation gets started.

I think the same thing should happen to the great pyramids. They're old and just get hammered by all that hot Sun and sand storms.

Many years back, when this pork fest arrived, I was told by the Water Bureau's flak* that "If your go into the basement of the houses near the reservoirs you can hear the leaking water roaring under your feet." I suggested that we should report this to the building inspectors immediately and he quickly dropped the subject.
*Such a skilled and seasoned flak, he once accused me of calling him a "flake" on another blog and saying that I misspelled it. Sigh....

Using the "poor condition" rationale Portland should issue $1.2 billion worth of bonds to repair failing roads.

And how 'bout those bridges?

"and every once in a while a boil water scare has been thrown in to make their point."
Don't forget the peeing drunk that forced a Big Pipe dump, a hazard cleanup, and a call to arm a water police force.

The armed police idea came way before the pee guy. It was after the skinny dipping couple several years back.

He's got $40M a year ore coming in than he did three years ago. He's gotta spend it on something other than the Bull Run Boys CLubhouse.

Zeb, you did misspell it. The correct word is "flack."

"Flak" originally meant anti-aircraft fire or shrapnel. Now it's more commonly used as a metaphor for verbal attacks or criticism.

...but I didn't call him a flake. (He was actually a nice guy -- jus' pimpin'words for the wrong team.) http://tinyurl.com/8cxfqws

How about filling those reservoirs with huge, watertight bladders. They're strong and sturdy, can be reinforced, and once in place and filled, can be covered with water for appearances.

Since they are sealed, low risk of contamination.

On a smaller scale, these types of bladders are used for temporary water storage in remote places.

Thats a new one coming out of Randy's schemes.
All these years we haven't heard about it, it was always EPA is making us do this, the LT2, the LT2, and other stories they could come up with.
Now that it looks like NY is doing better with their efforts and EPA is reviewing the LT2 rule, we may not have to cover them, couldn't have that now could we, so now this is the latest word from PWB about the reservoirs!
Can anyone believe these people anymore?

Too funny, I work everyday with guys who do waterproofing for a living. They work with weather conditions that make Oregon's climate (and weather) look like child's play. They are presently working on a project (waterproofing) that will carry a 50 year warranty - I work with concrete folks every day as well. Trust me, these reservoirs can be fixed for a mere fraction of putting in underground tanks. Oh, BTW, I've got quite a bit of experience with LARGE underground tanks (and yes they were used to store water), they come with their own unique problems ... trust me.

Yes they come with their own unique problems.
Google as I did – epa water storage tank problems.
Many links to read to know that storage tanks have their own set of problems.
One of many links:

Native Oregonian:Trust me, these reservoirs can be fixed for a mere fraction of putting in underground tanks.

Just one of the storage tank projects at Powell Butte Leonard rushed through several years ago using an emergency ordinance request cost $135 million and the PWB is getting ready to pour more millions in another project at Kelly Butte!! They need to stop the debt swamping! However they have been in a big rush to do more projects as the LT2 Rule is being reviewed now. They can say what they like, but with the economic times, prudence is called for and a moratorium needs to be put on these projects. Not likely with the likes of the elected officials we have now.

I place my trust in the 100 year old Bull Run Water System that has worked well for us, if it needs some fixing, why not fix it?

Follow the money trail. Very little of what is going on these days has to do with the health of our community.

Native Oregonian wrote: Trust me, these reservoirs can be fixed for a mere fraction of putting in underground tanks.

I believe you wholeheartedly. I also believe that the City makes decisions by imagining the largest trove of ill-gotten money that they could possibly scam up, divide by days until retirement, and then working backwards.

August 21, 2012
Updated August 27, 2012 (new signatories)

Mayor Adams and Commissioners
1221 SW 4th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204

Dear Mayor Adams and Commissioners,
We support a change to the City's LT2 compliance strategy for open reservoirs. We support the City
submitting to the Oregon Health Authority a new reservoir compliance strategy which involves Hypalon-like covers at Reservoirs 1 and 5 (Mt. Tabor) and Reservoirs 3 and 4 (Washington Park).
We support this Hypalon-like, cover compliance strategy because it protects the recent $40 million ratepayer investment in open reservoir upgrades and would provide the greatest opportunity for
Portland to benefit from the LT2 rule revision process currently underway. This is the only option that preserves the functionality of our historic open reservoirs. This option also provides the best opportunity for the Mayor and Commissioners to actively engage in discussions with our federal
representatives to secure permanent relief from onerous LT2 requirements for Portland's open reservoirs and our Bull Run source water.

This new Hypalon-like cover compliance strategy will save ratepayers upwards of $138 million in the near term and much more in the long term when debt service is considered.

Please connect community will to LT2 compliance strategies.
Stephanie Stewart for
Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association
Jeff Boly for Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association
Further Supported By:
Floy Jones
Friends of the Reservoirs
Peter Stark and Barbara Schwartz
Members, Hillside Neighborhood Association Board
Regna Merritt
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Kent Craford for Portland Water Users Coalition Members:
ALSCO, American Linen Division
American Property Management
Ashland Hercules Water Technologies
The Benson Hotel
BOMA Portland
Harsch Investment
The Hilton Portland and Executive Tower
Mt. Hood Solutions
New System Laundry
Portland Bottling
Siltronic Corp.
Sunshine Dairy Foods
Vigor Industrial
Widmer Brothers Brewing
Juliana Lukasik for Central Eastside Industrial Council
Portland Business Alliance
Bob Sallinger for Audubon Society of Portland
Sean Stevens for Oregon Wild
Olivia Schmidt for BARK
Maxine Wilkins and Michael Meo for Eastside Democratic Club
David Delk for Alliance for Democracy
Julie DeGraw for Food & Water Watch
Ron Carley for Coalition for a Livable Future
Anne Dufay for SE Uplift Neighborhood Coalition:
North Tabor Neighborhood Association
Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association
Montavilla Neighborhood Association
Sunnyside Neighborhood Association
Buckman Neighborhood Association
Hosford Abernathy Neighborhood Association
Richmond Neighborhood Association
South Tabor Neighborhood Association
Foster Powell Neighborhood Association
Creston - Kenilworth Neighborhood Association
Brooklyn Neighborhood Association
Reed Neighborhood Association
Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association
Sellwood Moreland Neighborhood Association
Woodstock Neighborhood Association
Mount Scott Arleta Neighborhood Association
Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association
Ardenwald - Johnson Creek Neighborhood
Kerns Neighborhood Association
Laurelhurst Neighborhood Association
Andy Maggi for
Oregon League of Conservation Voters
Scott Fernandez for Citizens for Portland's Water
Franklin Gearhart for
Citizens Interested in Bull Run, Inc.
Nancy Newell for
Oregon Green Energy Coalition

The $500,000 2004 Reservoir Panel did not find the reservoirs to be in poor condition.

A consulting firm, Montgomery Watson Harza Global, was hired by the Water Bureau and studied the open reservoirs under a 9-year contract (1995-2004). In a 2001 document[4], that firm rated the reservoirs as being in “good condition” and listed projects that, if completed over a 20-year period, would maintain the safe function of reservoirs until 2050 if work started in 2003.

The majority of these projects were completed under four contracts between 2003 and 2011. A $23 million Slayden Construction open reservoir upgrade contract, which was awarded in 2007 one year after the LT2 rule was finalized, ended in March 2011. The total approximate cost of the four contracts is $4o million. Ratepayers water bills will reflect these costs over the next 25 years

A May 2009 Cascade Design Reservoir Structures Report found the reservoirs to be in good shape as did a 2011 report the same.

The PWB- the can spend, can build and the "we can't wait to raise your water rates year after year" Bureau.

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