News Feature | August 3, 2017

Debate Rages As Portland Weighs UV Against Filtration Tech

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

portland reg new

With a parasite plaguing its water supply, Portland, OR, is planning to make a major water treatment spending decision this month, but critics say city officials are rushing the process.

“The Portland Water Bureau, the city utility, has to pick one of two technologies — filtration or ultraviolet light treatment — to kill a small parasite, cryptosporidium, in the Bull Run reservoirs that provide drinking water to the city and its suburbs,” according to Oregon Public Radio. Cryptosporidium can cause infections in humans.

But a watchdog group argues that City Council should delay its decision.

“There’s general agreement that this has been way too rushed and we don’t have, in my opinion, enough information,” said Colleen Johnson, co-chair of the Portland Utility Board (PUB), per the report. PUB plays an oversight role for city water.

Along with pushing the city to delay its decision, PUB is backing a particular treatment technology.

“The PUB is finalizing its recommendations in a letter that it will send to City Council this week. If the council does push forward with a decision, the PUB will suggest the city choose filtration. It’s estimated to cost between $350 million and $500 million,” the report said.

Rockwood Water People's Utility District, a customer of the city utility, is also pushing for an extension. Oregon Citizens' Utility Board, a ratepayer group, wants more time, as well.

The Portland Water Bureau already asked the city council to consider building a $105 million water plant, The Portland Mercury reported.

“The plans, which will mean higher water rates, aren't coming out of the blue. The rainy winter resulted in 19 detections of cryptosporidium in three months — enough that the Portland Water Bureau announced it wouldn't be able to meet criteria that allowed us to avoid treating the water. The Oregon Health Authority, which regulates Portland's water supply, agreed. Now we've got to figure out what to do about it by August 11,” the Mercury reported.

August 11 is a deadline set by the Oregon Health Authority, according to Oregon Public Radio.

“Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Nick Fish have asked the Oregon Health Authority to extend the deadline for the City Council to decide on an option for treating a potentially deadly parasite in the Bull Run watershed,” the Portland Tribune reported.

To read more about technology options for treating water visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Contaminant Removal Solutions Center.

Image credit: "portland ore," michael silberstein © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/