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Water rate hikes flood businesses

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Articles - December 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
1210_ATS20Spiking water rates in Portland over the past three years have caused increasing concern among the many water-intensive businesses in the city. Rates have increased 43.4% in the past three years and will more than double in the next five. For instance, Portland’s top 2009 commercial water user, silicon-wafer maker Siltronic, could see fees increase by roughly $2 million in the next five years.

The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) started initial stages of construction of covered reservoirs at Kelly Butte and Powell Butte in the fall of 2009 and is shuttering others to meet EPA regulations banning open-water reservoirs. The five-year project will cost the city around $400 million, and PWB customers — 10% to 15% of whom are businesses — will bear much of that cost. Water rates, which are the same for consumers and businesses, will increase on average by 12% next June and by roughly 13% each subsequent fiscal year until 2015. In contrast, water rates increased by 12.4% between 1994 and 1999.

“We know its money out of their pockets; we have to be mindful of that when maintaining [an old] system and complying with EPA regulations,” says PWB spokesman Jimmy Brown.

There is some controversy around the fact that the Portland City Council has on many occasions appropriated PWB revenue for non-water unrelated projects. For example, over the past decade more than $15 million of PWB’s revenue was spent on MAX and streetcar projects.

“We don’t mind paying for the [water] service, but when it gets diverted to other systems … it’s no good,” says Alan Sprott, a vice president at marine ship services company Vigor Industrial in Portland. Last March, the Portland Utility Review Board unanimously voted for more checks and balances on the council’s ability to reallocate PWB money. The review board also plans to reduce PWB’s controllable costs by 15% over the next five years.

Some large water-using businesses are being proactive about the cost of water. Oregon Health & Science University was the fourth-largest consumer of water in the city in 2009 and has created conservation programs to reduce consumption. “We’ve seen a 30% decrease of water use in the past 20 years,” says Roger Cole, OHSU’s manager of sustainable operations. In 2006, OHSU constructed two buildings that met LEED standards in sustainability. “It’s a win-win, economically and environmentally,” Cole says.

PETER BELAND
 

Comments   

 
just plain Dick
0 #1 just plain Dick 2010-11-30 15:46:20
"FIFTEEN MILLION ON max"? How much for "BIKES"? People, we need water!!
Our city looks all dried out all summer! Why?? High SEWER RATES. Water needs accountability but sewer needs to be privitized. Run it like you own it.
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Bull Run Advocate
0 #2 Water Rates unnecessarily highBull Run Advocate 2010-12-01 20:08:34
The biggest controversy related to these unnecessary construction projects is the PWB's cozy relationship with the consultant it secretly hired (1997-2003) to negotiate a no-public-healt h benefit "public health" regulation known as EPA's LT2.
PWB has funneled project after project to the corporate home of the same cozy consultant who has been on retainer with the PWB for 15 years. This is not a good deal for ratepayers. See the background tab at www.friendsofreservoirs.org

EPA’s flawed LT2 Cryptosporidium regulation requires that Portland either “treat or cover” its five open reservoirs to address non-existent Cryptosporidium , Giardia, and viruses. It also requires that Portland additionally treat our Bull Run source water for non-existent Cryptosporidium .

Covering Portland’s highly-valued open reservoirs will create new and unique public health risks (cancer causing nitrification), degrade our Bull Run system, and contribute significantly to the doubling of water bills. These costs will create additional massive debt threatening the future of Portland’s public water system, while providing no measurable public health benefit.
Open reservoirs have safely provided drinking water to tens of millions across the United States for over 100 years. Good operation and maintenance practices are important factors in the protection of distribution systems, of which storage facilities are one part.
Consider these facts:
The 2009 American Water Works Association Research Foundation Project # 3021 involved massive sampling of our open reservoirs (7,000 liters) and found 0 Crypto detects; sources of Giardia (Beavers) do not exist at our open reservoirs; no known viruses have been found that pose a unique risk to open reservoirs.
9,000 liters sampled in Bull Run over the last year also tested negative for Crypto. Ten years of samples are negative for Crypto

EPA failed to collect any scientific data or conduct any scientific research that supports an open reservoir Cryptosporidium “treat or cover” requirement. EPA failed to document a single public health issue with open reservoirs.
However, EPA cites multiple public health incidents, deaths and illness associated with closed storage.
·Seattle’s recent reservoir burial resulted in contamination of their drinking water
·The LT2 2003 draft rule contained a mitigation option allowing for open reservoirs. Without notice or opportunity for public comment EPA inexplicably omitted the mitigation option. EPA ignored its own Federal Advisory Committee’s “Agreement in Principle” which supported open reservoir mitigation.
Serving on EPA's Science Advisory Drinking Water Committee, Rhodes Trussell, Montgomery, Watson, Harza (MWH). The PWB hired Joe Glicker, MWH to negotiate the rule. Now JG's corporation is the beneficiary of the contracts
·Between 2003 and 2010 corporations completed $45 million open reservoir upgrades at Tabor and Washington Park, projects designed to last 50 years
·2007 Oregon state legislature unanimously passed into law “clean water” variance legislation in line with SDWA
·Public health risks resulting from eliminating Portland’s open storage reservoirs include:
a)Loss of venting of disinfection by products
b)Columbia South Shore Well Field Radon will vent in businesses and homes
c)Creation of cancer-causing Nitrification that occurs only buried storage in chloraminated systems such as Bull Run
LT2 is scheduled to be revised in 2012 but original EPA/ corporate team who developed flawed rule remains in charge.
Options
1) Protective Legislative Relief would help Portlanders and other small-unfiltere d systems, i.e. Baker City, Alaska and other open reservoir systems, i.e. New York. Unsupportable proposals are emerging such as the one from Alaska (HR 6393 = http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-6393).
2) Reservoir Variance. EPA should be pressured via Congressional letters and meetings to approve the allowable Safe Drinking Water Act “treatment technique” variance for open reservoirs in that the LT2 open reservoir “treat or cover” requirement is a “treatment technique”. NYC has already prepared a 160-page scientific report in support of an open reservoir variance.

Write to City Council and tell them to work with Senator Merkley on legislative, permanent relief.

.
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 water diva
0 #3 Portland Water Bureau- Enough is Enough water diva 2010-12-01 20:48:00
The City of Portland is faced with an EPA drinking water regulation forcing us to treat for a public health problem that does not exist in our source water and open reservoirs. Because of the following reasons we ask for a legislative Waiver exempting the City of Portland from EPA Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Drinking Rule (LT2):

• Cryptosporidium , the supposed reason for this massive rebuilding of our water system, is baloney. A catastrophic sewage event in Milwaukee, Wisc., and the rationale for requiring Cryptosporidium treatment—was caused by raw sewage in the drinking water, not the microorganism Cryptosporidium .

.“What happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a failure of water treatment and sewage treatment system that allowed sewage to get into the drinking water system. That’s not possible in the Bull Run. The Bull Run is 35 miles away from Portland, it’s in a protected watershed where human entry is prohibited.”

• No unfiltered water system such as ours has ever had a public health problem from Cryptosporidium . There are and have been no microbial or chemical public health problems from open reservoirs.

• As said above:this new federal regulation requiring unnecessary added treatment, and covering our reservoirs will actually decrease our water quality by adding toxins and carcinogenic gases such as Radon and ethers to our homes, businesses, and schools. Conversely, closed and covered reservoirs have EPA-documented public health problems, such as deaths from microorganisms.

• City of Portland Bull Run Treatment Panel in 2002 found that added treatment will “show no measurable public health benefit”. In 2004, the City of Portland Independent Review Panel on open reservoirs found no need or public health benefit to eliminate open reservoirs.

• Portland water bills, which have already risen significantly and irresponsibly in the last two years, will double in less than five years.
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Bull Run Advocate
0 #4 PURB Has No PowerBull Run Advocate 2010-12-02 12:53:56
The PURB whose membership changes from year to year (with members recruited by the PWB), has no ability to reduce controllable costs or any other wasteful spending by the PWB. The PURB is advisory only. The only advice the Water Bureau or City Council follows from the PURB or the public is advice that results in increases to the budget not decreases.

The number of Bureau employees has risen by nearly 100 over the last 5 years. Engineers received a classification upgrade two years ago increasing again controllable costs.

The Bureau debt finances all routine maintenance projects (reconstruction ) which means that the costs of these projects nearly doubles. 40% of its budget is debt service. The Bureua plans to add $100 million per year to its debt load.

To cover the debt not only is the Bureau raising water rates, but also raising the previously stable Base Charge an equal amount. Conservation is good, but it hasn't resulted in a lower bill. While most of us are using less water our bills climb.

Water use and water demand has continually declined for the last 23 years, despite the service area population increasing during the same time period. The Bureau says "use more water wisely" as they need water sales.

The current on-track WB plan is to double your water bills between 2009 and 2014 then double them again.
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CB
0 #5 Just say NOCB 2010-12-04 13:16:36
The Water Bureau is squeezing rate payers for projects that are completely unnecessary. We don't have Cryptosporidium and we don't need new storage facilities. Not if they actually maintain the highly functional ones we have, including the elegant open reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Parks, which they want to dismantle.
==> Protest the planned destruction and construction of a new tank at Kelly Butte, at their public meeting on Tuesday 12/7. Lents Adventist Church Activity Center, 8815 SE Woodstock, 6:30-8pm.
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JadeQueen
0 #6 Pollution risksJadeQueen 2010-12-04 14:33:01
Plans to hit the water with ultra-violet light could introduce toxins if an earthquake shakes things, and the artificial, energy-consumin g lights break.

citizensforportlandswater.org and others have seen pictures of what happens to animals that get in through vents and drown. They are underground and unseen by the public, but they are there until someone inspects, detects, and removes.

It is wise to filter your house water anyway, especially if you have special health issues.

Nonetheless, planning to hit water with less than full-spectrum light is not hitting it with a magic wand that makes it completely safe.

Radon can seep into cracked delivery pipes as well as getting into underground storage.

You cannot smell radon, but you can smell chlorine by-products.

Test filters by smelling before/after, for chlorine. You don't have to be a Ph.D. to do this, and especially if you have already had run-ins with cancer, it could be a good idea.
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Richard Carpenter
0 #7 MrRichard Carpenter 2010-12-04 20:42:42
PLEASE do not cover the reservoirs!!!
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Charles Rooney
0 #8 Charles Rooney 2010-12-06 15:23:35
The aroused citizenry of Portland must unite to make sure this boondoggle of a plan to cover our reservoirs is stopped once and for all. Covering the reservoirs and treating Bull Run water chemically will actually degrade water purity. And, it is obvious that the PWB is way to cozy with the consultants and firms that stand to make alot of money if this project goes through. The people of Portland cannot afford any unnecessary rate hikes.
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