A New Lawsuit Says Covered Water Reservoirs Will Poison Portlanders

Comments

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Columbia South SHORE Well Field. Not Short.
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Thank you for the coverage, Mercury. But please correct your article to note that federal regulations do NOT require open reservoirs to be capped. They simply require open reservoirs to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, and there is an entire "tool box" of options via which our open reservoirs could do that. Portland City Council did not try those options, and they certainly never fought for a waiver of the federal rules.

City Council members and their campaign-donating engineer friends have been trying, by hook or by crook, to demolish and replace the historic reservoirs since at least the early oughts, long before the feds even adopted reservoir regulations. In fact, these special interests are the very ones who lobbied the feds to intervene; and when the feds didn't outlaw open reservoirs as hoped, Portland officials simply lied and said they did. The Mercury can be forgiven its error; City officials have lied about this so many times that it's become widely accepted as truth. But read the regulation you've linked; you will see that it does not in any way mandate, or even justify, what the city and its engineers want to do to our reservoirs.

Commissioner Fish is lying when he says the reservoirs are being demolished to protect us from the "Big One." He knows good and well that state geologists have credited the Washington Park reservoir with slowing a landslide, and have warned that the area's geology will be compromised by demolition work there. He also knows that our gravity-fed open reservoirs would provide the easiest access to water in a city-wide emergency.

The city is also lying in its water quality reports about radon risk. The scientific community has long known, and state and federal officials have long acknowledged, that there is no safe level of radon. Congress mandated the EPA twenty years ago to ensure that radon in drinking water is reduced to "as close to zero as is feasible," because radon in drinking water kills over 19,000 Americans a year. (Risk Assessment of Radon in Drinking Water, National Research Council, National Academy Press 1999, pp. 2, 5-6.)

Portland water customers should be tearing up their bills and joining Mr. Fernandez's suit as a class action.
4
Fernandez is NOT an idiot. He is a credible scientist. Why do you think we suddenly discovered the lead-contaminated pipes in our children's schools... it's because the high radon levels now in our water (thanks to City Council) leaches the lead from the pipes at a higher rate than the clean water we used to enjoy.
When I complained to David Shaff at the Water Dept about the higher rate of radon, he advised that we should all let our water sit out for 20-minutes to let the radon evaporate (not sure what he would suggest we do about showering & breathing the steam -- run a bath & let it sit 20 minutes before using, maybe....).
Were it civil to do so, I could suggest who the REAL idiots were in this expensive fiasco.
5
What are the radon levels in the covered reservoirs?

WE DON'T KNOW.

And that's the real issue.
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LOL @ Tre. The radon has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the lead. It's the corrosive Bull Run water that is responsible for the lead leaching from the pipes, radon is found in the much less corrosive groundwater.

But keep on beating this dead horse, the only people that will end up looking stupid are you and your so-called 'scientific experts'.
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And as far as microbiology goes, the open reservoirs are responsible for the vast majority of coliform detections and boil water notices issued.
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@ Kenric - radon results can be easily found on the city's web site, in the annual water quality report. Radon levels typically decrease as the groundwater is blended with Bull Run water and moves through the system.

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/arti…
9
Randy, do you mind revealing your full name and the Portland bureau you work for?

Since other cities with open reservoirs don't have lead problems like we do, and other cities with our pH level don't have lead problems like we do, our lead leaching cannot be blamed on the open reservoirs or the system pH. Corrosion is usually due to biofilms, aggregations of bacteria that accumulate in public water systems where conduit pipes aren't properly maintained. This microbially influenced corrosion (MIC) creates a corrosive, acidic pH at the biofilm-metal interface regardless of how neutral the water circulating in the system is. Portland has ignored auditors' warnings and stayed thousands of man-hours behind on basic pipe maintenance for decades because it's too busy pushing big engineering interests to clean the pipes.

You reassure Tre that radon levels decrease as they travel throughout the system, but really you seem to prove Tre's point. The way radon levels decrease throughout the system is by off-gassing at the distribution's open spots, i.e., shower heads, faucets, washing machines and dish washers. The EPA conservatively estimates that hundreds of deaths each year are caused by this kind of exposure; and environmental scientists like Fitzgerald and Hopke (1997) have said that the real number is probably far higher than the EPA's estimates. Portlanders pay their water bureau (and people like you, Randy?) to care about that. But instead of caring, you ignore the risk, insult people who ask reasonable questions, and spread misinformation.

The deadest horse in this corral is the one that says open reservoirs cause disease. Name one instance of a public health problem caused by an open reservoir. You can't. Portland's boil water notices always occur when reservoir policy is being debated in the news, and they always involve coliform detections that either can't be verified at all, or have been collected using nonsterile gloveless methods, or have come from test stations along the distribution system where the biofilm problem is worst--for example, at the SW Portland test station that's a few blocks downhill from the spot where raw sewage has been spewing from the ground for years, and no one in the city's water bureaucracy can figure out how to fix it.

What a fitting metaphor for the way this city works.