News Nov 6, 2013 at 4:00 am

Portland's Other Water Effort Could Make Us a National Model


I like the accurate retelling of how this conversation started under a tree by the reservoir. Can't get more grass-roots than that.
Climate change is due to undersea volcanism.
So who you gonn'a sue? The problem is with corrupt, career politicians. Why do Portlanders keep voting for the same old crooks?
Other than conspiracy theories about fluoridation, I'd like to read a crystal clear and valid explanation of how, when and where the city has violated or breached its duties regarding water, or you won't see me signing this or any other petition regarding either corporate or citizen takeover of the Water Bureau anytime soon.
@randyzpdx - you should read the full text of the initiative before making up your mind. There are no allegations of violation of duties, because, frankly, there aren't many strong duties at present. Officials can pass from government to the private sector, accept thousands in campaign donations, and make decisions about water (what developments to permit, how to negotiate with the EPA during the Harbor Superfund dispute, which companies to give contracts to, etc). Just like most other cities, there really aren't any rules to prevent money from buying whatever it wants. This charter amendment would create strict duties and mechanisms to enforce them. The duties are quite reasonable and largely what people expect their government to be doing anyway. Again, please read it first.
Text of the PWT ballot measure in PDF
Whatever, I still fail to see how a bunch of hippies and malcontents will do a better job of managing the Water Bureau than the local government does.

FWIW, there are only so many qualified scientific and engineering consultants and contractors locally available to work on these issues, and things like the Harbor Superfund site(s) are not under the purview of the Portland Water Bureau, they are under the purview of BES and ODEQ.
@randyzpdx again, you should read the initiative. It doesn't say anything about hippies or malcontents managing the Water Bureau. It's a series of duties that would guide decisions and eliminate competing incentives (like "hey if I do this company a favor and secure them a contract, I can leave public service and make a bunch of money with that same company"). Largely, the discretion of our City officials is left entirely intact, minus the conflicts of interest that they might run into. And, the Water Trust would apply to any official or bureau dealing with water in the City, including BES.
Still, Randy Leonard and Sam Adams are gone from city council now, and it seems most of the activist's beefs were with them, so now what's the point? Any system of checks and balances you can dream up is going to be subject to manipulation by those wanting to do so badly enough. Plus, there are already restrictions in place at the city regarding so-called 'revolving door' employees and contracts. Even if We the People became a lot more careful at selecting our elected officials, you're never going to please everyone all the time.
The initiative establishes a Trust. That means that control is out of the hands of the elected officials and citizens, alike. That's an invitation to abuse without recourse. Just pass a law that prohibits all fucking around, and which specifically holds elected officials personally, criminally liable for any breach, such as privatizing or fluoridating.
@randyzpdx -- If only there were some kind of mechanism to ensure greater compliance... like a citizen lawsuit provision...
The state allows citizens to issue traffic citations. The sky isn't currently falling as a result of that invitation to use public process to ensure accountable and legal behavior. One would think our environment is more important than a mere traffic violation.
Why does the initiative require that the water be tested for radon every year? Aren't we all also concerned with rates? If we test the water for radon and get a non-detect every year for 10 years should we still keep testing it? I think this is way too specific to be included in a public trust initiative. This initiative does not leave room for experts to do their jobs.
And if you think that you don't need experts to manage your water, then why don't you try doing some research on all of the possible things that you might want to test in your water, how to keep bacteria and biofilm from growing in your distribution system, and double check some of those statements about where the major sources of radon come from.
Sam Adams and Randy Leonard have left office, but not the state. They could still be charged.

This initiative has many faults, but how does it hurt to test for radon? By all means, test for everything, all the time. What else have the experts got to do. Being a water expert has got to be the cushiest job around.
First open house on Tuesday 11/12, 6:30 PM at Base Camp.…
The initiative does not make any claims about what are the major sources of radon in our water system, but it does say to test for radon at least annually. Radon testing is actually very inexpensive and while it's not a significant problem given our water sources and current use of those water sources, there may be instances in the future where how we use those water sources may differ and full information is more important than a lack of information, given the existing exposure to radon we currently have (from basements). The current suggested / proposed but not adopted levels for radon in water we do not exceed, nor are we likely to exceed them, but the federal government requires all sorts of other tests that aren't a significant problem for us either. For the same reason the EPA requires publishing a water quality report with test results that are below action levels for other items, radon makes sense to publish, too. The initiative in general allows pretty wide discretion in the implementation of the trust, because it is designed for a charter, not as an implementing document. The experts are left to implement details. The EPA's eventual final rule on radon in water will likely require annual testing of all water sources, especially given the new exposure routes to radium that come from oil and gas fracking, which while not common here, are more and more common elsewhere. If this initiative followed that final rule, the line would likely not be included. We're just a little ahead of the EPA on transparency requirements. If high levels of radon are ever found for any reason, the trust in general does not specify how that would be mitigated. Instead, it focuses on overall community health and environmental quality using the best available independent science as the metric. That is where domain expertise is applied.
One final comment - It appears that the people who drafted this proposal only considered surface waters, and not hydrologically connected and economically/environmentally important groundwaters in the Portland area, which is a fairly large oversight on their part.
Randyzpdx, who are you and what basis would you have for thinking it does not include groundwater? Nowhere does it restrict the trust resource to just surface waters and it explicitly names aquifers in the trust res.
Where are specific aquifers named? All I see named are the Bull Run, Columbia and Willamette rivers. Furthermore, what constitutes 'full or partial' jurisdiction of the City of Portland when it comes to water? In general public waters are owed and regulated by the state. At best, Portland may have water rights or other permits granted by the state, which allow it limited authority to either beneficially use or discharge to those waters.

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