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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

City gets break on covering reservoirs -- no, not Portland

While Portland continues to burn mega-millions building underground water tanks, supposedly because the federal government gives us no choice, the City of Rochester, N.Y. just got a 10-year reprieve from doing so. So say the critics of Portland's out-of-control water bureau and tour service:

Documents recently obtained from the City of Rochester's water department reveal how that city with historic open reservoirs set in city parks received a deferral of EPA LT2 reservoir projects, until 2024. Rochester will be able to retain their historic open reservoirs and fully benefit from the LT2 rule revision scheduled for completion in 2016. Rochester argued, successfully, that severely strained budgets are reason for deferral, stating that the LT2 regulation "imposes expenditures that are too onerous..." The revelation is particularly noteworthy, as the Portland Water Bureau has stridently maintained that cities cannot cite economic hardship to secure an LT2 compliance delay.

You mean Portland City Hall is needlessly blowing money on engineering boondoggles? Perish the thought!

Comments (9)

As Jack Benny would say, "Now Rochester!"

And if WW is kinda waking up to the reality of a corrupt and pork-fueled city hall, maybe they just might want to "uncover" the truth about this "huge drain" on our public assets.

(Puns intended)

"...the Portland Water Bureau has stridently maintained that cities cannot cite economic hardship to secure an LT2 compliance delay."

Yeah...right...Their friends and family in the building trades industry tell them that and they just pass it on to the public. Hey, they're convinced.

Now we find that the information is erroneous. Big surprise...NOT!)

Perhaps now Admiral Randy can stop crapping in the reservoirs?

You mean Portland City Hall is needlessly blowing money on engineering boondoggles?

Council's approval, despite city hall chambers filled with businesses and citizens pleading to stop it.

While I am at it what elected official has really stood up here to stop this?

We water watchers have been given the run around, by our congressional delegation, city council and state and round it goes so I guess at the end of the horrendous affair they can spread the accountability??

One person who we should write-in right now who will step up and do as NY is
Scott Fernandez. He already went to Washington DC in April 2012 to testify at an EPA hearing about the public health of our open reservoirs with no contradictions to his conclusions.

We must recognize that businesses and jobs are dependent on water rates, think. . . what businesses will come here with the debt swamping our officials have dealt us? Fernandez is very concerned about the debt of our city and financial accountability. We need someone who is going to fine tooth comb what is going on in our bureaus and who will be a People's Mayor and work for the public interest.


October 17, 2012

Dear Mayor Adams and Commissioners Fish, Fritz, Saltzman, and Leonard,

In recent weeks we have uncovered information that the City of Rochester requested and secured a 10-year reprieve from the LT2 reservoir "treat or cover' requirement citing the revision of the rule underway and economic hardship. Rochester as you know has two historic open reservoirs (built in 1876) set in city parks. After learning that the onerous LT2 regulation would be revised Rochester immediately requested a delay of their plans to treat at the outlet until 2024 based on strained budgets and debt. They further argued that the reprieve would allow them to benefit from the rule revision scheduled for completion in 2016. You will find details of their arguments in their December 20, 2011 letter.

In light of this new information we call upon the City Council to immediately stop work on the unnecessary $80 million Kelly Butte project. City Council should direct the Water Bureau to prepare a second request for extension of compliance to the Oregon Health Authority.

Rochester has demonstrated that an economic argument is a valid argument. Portland should not be treated differently. A 61% increase in water rates since 2008 is an economic hardship. The Water Bureau is projecting next year's rate increase at 14.8% in part to address Kelly Butte.

We've attached documents that demonstrate just how easily Rochester secured their 10-year deferral. Ratepayers demand the same reprieve for our historic reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Park.

Floy Jones for Friends of Reservoirs
Regna Merritt for Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Kent Craford for Portland Water Users Coalition
Stephanie Stewart for the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association
Jeff Boly for the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association

Good luck with that. Like a lot of these "decisions", I'm sure they've already signed over the farm before anyone else knew.

When citizens in Rochester balked at their Water Bureau’s outrageous proposal to spend $40 million dollars on a rule that didn’t provide them any benefit (remember, our city is planning to spend $400 million, that’s 1000% more), their Water Bureau went back to the drawing board and discovered that they could fit mini-UV reactor plants (24” UV reactors) INSIDE the historic gatehouses already at their reservoirs. PWB’s David Shaff continually repeats the untruth that the UV option would require Portlanders to live with a large capacity treatment plant in town, falsely stating that we need to remember that the plant would have to have the capacity to treat all of Bull Run’s water. Really, it just needs to treat that water flowing through the outlet of each reservoir and that is a smaller capacity as we all know and Rochester can prove it. Rochester revised their plan with EPA (a step PWB swore was impossible) dropping the build option in favor of the mini-reactor option while cutting their costs down to “just” $25 million. But, this still wasn’t enough.

Rochester City employees just couldn’t live with the idea that they were spending money for nothing and so their Mayor wrote the EPA. He said, “this regulation imposes expenditures that are too onerous and benefits that are, at best, difficult to measure. Implementation of the LT2 Rule also comes at a time when the City needs to make major investments in its aging infrastructure by implementing already identified system upgrades with clearly quantifiable benefits…” Our mayor could have written those very words, but he did not write the EPA.

Rochester’s Water Bureau read the EPA’s response to the Mayor’s letter and understood that when Lisa Jackson says the following words she is OPENING A DOOR and guiding your argument. Here are some of her words: “… there may be specific, articulable facts that warrant compliance schedule adjustments. Many public water systems face multiple challenges in managing, maintaining and operating those systems. Infrastructure construction projects can also present challenges. It is entirely appropriate for primacy agencies to consider these system specific facts when evaluating a request to adjust a compliance schedule. If a schedule adjustment is appropriate, the public water system should have in place robust interim measures to ensure public health protection…” Rochester took her lead. Their argument focused on “articulable facts” like she mentioned = maintenance and operating challenges, including costs. They followed her lead and spent a respectable amount of time talking about their robust measures to ensure public health = security cameras, gates, bird wires, etc. Our Water Bureau’s request mentioned our “robust” measures only in the foot notes. Why didn’t PWB’s proposal for a timeline delay look more like Rochester’s?

Rochester took their determination to spend wisely, mixed it with a little EPA Rule revision process (now underway for the LT2 rule) and came out with a winning request to delay their compliance timeline until 2022 (well after this rule will have finished the revision process which will likely install more effective, scientifically sound, fiscally responsible compliance options).

Wasn't Portland at the forefront of this issue about 15 years ago? I remember getting a survey in the mail asking what the city should do with the reservoirs, and thought that they decided to "do nothing" and fight the law that was forcing them to be removed/covered.

I'll have to look into the survey, but the PWB is actually the one utility in the nation that was secretly involved in the crafting of the flawed EPA rule that has cost U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers across the country billions of dollars . The PWB was the ONLY utility seated at the table in Washington D.C. just over a decade ago. They brought with them a revolving door consultant, an former PWB manager, an engineer who worked back room with EPA's LT2 lead, Stig Regli.

In 2005 I spent 240 hours at the Water Bureau reviewing the boxes of documents associated with this consultant/ global corporation's contract related to the LT2 rule. That very same consultant has received an endless string of contracts associated with treatment plants and buried tanks.
You can find background info at the Friends of the Reservoir website,

The only person at City Hall who appears to have one cell of compassion for ratepayers is Amanda Fritz.

Her principal competitor sounds to me to be as privileged and unsympathetic to ratepayers as the old boys now on the Council.

We need Yvonne to stay as auditor. I really want you to think what would happen to Portlanders if she is not there.

Scott Fernandez has spent years on the details of how the old boys have been loading debt on, with water vultures waiting in the wings to take things over when the system goes far beyond the roughly 40% of debt we already pay in our bills.

Have you guys net-searched Veolia? Do you know who wants our water infrastructure? These are interesting people, people.

We need a scientist with a Master's who can count well enough to add up what is going on with no-bid, last-minute contracts.

Treating cultural resources (read American Indian bone tools) as something out-of-state experts should opine on is just crazy, but these guys have been getting away with this.

Both PSU and Lewis and Clark have experts on local tribes, not to mention local tribes themselves.

Excuse me? Where are Portlanders on this? If there are cultural resources left on those Buttes, we need to save them.

Sheesh. We need good-girl gangs like India now has, in red and pink saris, explaining the facts of life to those people who think it is ok to stick it to people who have voted three times not to destroy metal pipes or to poison themselves with waste.

As far as I know the Council-lobby people did not even tell us yet whether they intended to get the waste: from China, from aluminum smelters nearby, or from fertilizer trash from Idaho? How did they plan to have it shipped?

So much for the transparency that only seems to be obtained at high cost, with minders tending citizens in embarrassing but ineffective attempts at intimidation.

Do these guys know more than 6 sycophants who live outside ultra-high-rent parts of the city?

Yes-people do not represent the geek culture of people who make less than what it takes to just hang out with people who make city-council salaries, but who know how to write and think and communicate with officials in saner places.

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