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Friday, June 26, 2009

In with the water bill

Our latest Portland water and sewer bill arrived in the mail this week, and after the Mrs. used smelling salts to revive me, I noticed there was a flyer enclosed. "Huh," I thought. "Probably another version of Fireman Randy's Caesar salad recipe."

But no. This one was actually about Water Bureau business -- and of course, the news was bad. It was recap of where the city stands on the looming federal requirement that it bend over backward to make sure that the bug named Cryptosporidium isn't in our drinking water. It isn't now, and never has been, but with all the parts of our water system that are open to the air, the feds aren't buying the status quo.

The bottom line was on the back of the insert:

Something tells me that our water bills are about to do what our sewer bills have done as a result of the Big Pipe project -- namely, soar through the roof. And those pretty open reservoirs on Mount Tabor and in Washington Park? Either covered over or disconnected.

Comments (12)

Last fall I called the Water Bureau about the size of my latest bill.. the rep told me I was actually under what the average is for my demographic category.. she also told me water bills would be going up about 40% in the next year...

What's really great is that we are raising the rates now, just in case we need the money. I know, Randy wishes he would have done this sooner.

Expect an increase of at least 5%/yr for the foreseeable future.

"Expect an increase of at least 5%/yr for the foreseeable future."

That's after this year's 18% increase.

About that $400 million figure for each reservoir: Portland filed a brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in early 2007. It estimated total costs of building two underground storage facilities and covering the two main reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Park would be $67 million altogether. A far cry from the $800 million total in the flyer. What gives?

It is difficult to imagine living in such a place. With abundant rain and snow, everything I read indicates that you have stable and excellent water supply. And gravity-fed, no pumping required! Why would government require changes to something that works?

the actual increase will be approx 18% per year for the coming five years. After that I'm certain there will be more good news...
That 18% will be both for water as well as the base rate. Sewer of course will increase too.
The cost of responding to the LT2 will be aprox $800M plus another $800M for servicing that debt.
That vigorous effort to avoid this EPA requirement amounted to considerably less than advertized. The city did not send a letter requesting legislative action until Nov of 2007, nearly a year after they had said they would.
Merkley is now the Congressional deleghate for this issue so direct your letters to him.

I'm certain someone will correct me if I'm off, but I believe that debt service will be in excess of the 30% range of the total payments.

Nutter Const was last week awarded a contract to begin excavation for a new 50 M gallon storage facility on Powell Butte. This will allow the Bureau to mix that polluted well water from Blue Lake into the pristine Bull Run supply so all delivered water will be tainted. It certainly will be diluted (we'll never know as those individual well tests are secret)so it MAY meet Fed standards, but it will be tainted.
I don't know about you, but all water is not equal for me. Just ask any beer or winemaker. The source does matter.

See the Friends of the Reservoir site for current information and copies of what the City has done related to the LT2 exception.

The Water Bureau has been laggard, if not asleep at the wheel, about being involved as the LT2 regulations moved forward. EPA held two national stakeholder meetings (via internet) in 2003 which apparently were open to any jurisdiction. I've not found any evidence that Portland's Water Bureau took the opportunity at that early stage to present its concerns.

Someone has to pay for all the mistakes the H2O Bureau has made for the last 15 years.... from the text book case of how not to run an IT project (the billing systems fiasco) to the half baked ideas (and money wasted half baking it) of covering reservoirs. Well... really, they might as well recoup in advance for their next screw up

All the tenants in my property can expect this additional cost to be passed right through to them, along with the appropriate explanation.


Remember several years ago during a drought when we were forbidden to wash our cars or water our lawns, and our neighbors were encouraged to turn us in if we did? And then the City had the temerity to tell us that since we obediently followed their instructions and cut our water usage, they didn't sell enough water and so they were going to have to raise our rates to make up the shortfall! I'm STILL frosted over that one.

The rules behind this come from the people like Mark Hatfield that we elected. They are making us "safe" and the environment pristine again. And now the cost for all this is coming back to us. So we're going to pay more for water and sewer, plus the tram, steetcars... and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bailouts... even if it comes out of our unemployment check! Oh! And new soccer/baseball stadiums.

Lots of people to thank for this:
from Sen. Mark Hatfield to Nina Bell, Sam Adams and a few more.

Lots of people to thank for this:
from Sen. Mark Hatfield to Nina Bell, Sam Adams and a few more.

Those are names I would never expect to see in the same sentence!

Another part of the H2O increase - and the PURB (Public Utilities Board) beat them up about this - for years they've underestimated their expenses, overestimated the revenues - and it's finally catching up with them.

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