COMMUNITY MEETING ON LT2 RULE

April 11, 2009

By Paul Leistner

 

WELCOME

I’M GOING TO PROVIDE SOME QUICK BACKGROUND INFORMATION TO GIVE US ALL SOME CONTEXT FOR OUR DISCUSSION TODAY.

WHILE SOME OF THE DETAILS OF THE SCIENCE MAY BE COMPLEX—THE BASIC POLICY QUESTIONS ARE ONES WE ALL CAN UNDERSTAND AND RESPOND TO.

THE PURPOSE OF TODAY’S PRESENTATION IS TO HELP US ALL THINK ABOUT:

· WHAT’S IN OUR COMMUNITY’S BEST INTEREST, AND

· WHAT CAN THE CITY AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS DO TO ENSURE THE COMMUNITY’S BEST INTERESTS ARE MET?

Portland’s Water System

Portland is blessed with a wonderful water system.

We get high quality water from the pristine Bull Run Watershed. Strong protections prevent logging, development, and most human activity in our watershed.

Our system is gravity-fed—the water flows to our homes and businesses naturally without requiring additional pumping

Because of the purity of our water, only minimal treatment is required.

Our water system includes many facilities, including: the Bull Run watershed, the two dams, the system of pipes, and the storage system—which includes our five, beautiful, historical, open reservoirs built between 1884 and 1911.

Our system is: Low cost—low tech—and about as “green” as you can get.

Water Bureau director David Schaff recently told community members: “We are the most unique and protected watershed in the U.S….if not the world.”

So….Didn’t we Already to Decide Not to Bury the Open Reservoirs?

Many people may remember the controversy over burying the reservoirs a few years ago.

In 2002, after the 9/11 attacks, when concerns about terrorism were high, the Water Bureau proposed burying Portland’s open reservoirs.

Neighborhood and other community and business groups—including the Friends of the Reservoirs—opposed the proposal.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman (then the commissioner in charge of the Water Bureau) convened a panel—known as the Independent Review Panel (IRP)—to review the proposal to bury the reservoirs.

The Panel considered issues such as:

· the age and condition of the reservoirs, water quality, security, historical significance, and cost.

In May 2004, the Panel presented its report. The panel stated that it found no compelling reason to bury the reservoirs. The panel did recommend implementation of a risk mitigation strategy.

The Portland City Council subsequently formally ended the program to bury the reservoirs and ordered the implementation of a risk mitigation strategy.

The Water Bureau has spent millions of dollars increasing security, and installing surveillance cameras, new isolation valves, sensors on the fences, new lighting for the reservoirs, among other measures.

The bureau also has moved ahead on some deferred maintenance.

In July 2005, City Commissioner Randy Leonard replaced Commissioner Dan Saltzman as the city commissioner-in-charge of the Water Bureau.

So, why are we here?????

In January 2006, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a nation-wide rule, known as:

· “the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule”…..or “LT2” for short.

LT2 requires cities to treat for cryptosporidium. The rule would require Portland to bury or cover the reservoirs or treat their water at the outlet to protect against cryptosporidium.

The Water Bureau’s proposal to comply with the LT2 rule includes:

· Construction of an additional treatment plant in the Bull Run, and

· Either burial, covering, or additional treatment for the five open reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Parks.

The cost of complying to us as local ratepayers would be significant.

Is there a problem with our Drinking Water?

The LT2 Rule seeks to protect communities from cryptosporidium and other micro-organisms that can cause parasitic diseases.

Cities that have had “crypto” problems in their water—had them because their systems are vulnerable to contamination from human sewage or cattle exposure.

These are not problems that apply to Portland’s highly-protected water system.

In November 2008, Commissioner Leonard wrote to the incoming Obama administration and argued that Portland would realize

· No significant health benefit for the huge costs of complying with the LT2 rule and the unnecessary treatment.

City of Portland’s Response

The City of Portland is pursuing three separate tracks to respond to the LT2 rule requirements

1) COMPLIANCE: Taking steps to be ready to comply with the rule as it’s written.

· In March—in response to an April 1 EPA deadline—the Water Bureau submitted its plan to EPA on how it will comply with the LT2 rule requirements by building a treatment plant and burying the reservoirs.

2) LEGISLATIVE RELIEF: Seeking help from our Congressional delegation to pass federal legislation that would declare Portland in compliance with LT2 and allow Portland to continue to operate our existing system—without an additional Bull Run Treatment Plant and without burying, covering, or additionally treating our open reservoirs—if our system meets specific criteria.

3) VARIANCE FOR THE TREATMENT PLANT: Seeking, from EPA, a variance that would allow Portland not to build a Bull Run treatment plant—this would not prevent burial of the open reservoirs.

In addition to all this,

The Water Bureau is moving forward with plans to:

a. Build new underground water storage capacity at Powell Butte and Kelly Butte,

b. Install the capacity to take the open reservoirs off-line; and

c. Bury open Reservoir #3 in Washington Park.

What will all this cost?

On March 25, the Water Bureau reported to the Portland City Council that the cost to rate payers to comply with the LT2 rule would be nearly $800 million:

· $385 million to build the filtration treatment plant

· $403.4 million for the storage, transmission and system improvements needed to disconnect the open reservoirs (the $403.4 million includes $137 million for the new underground storage at Powell Butte.)