In light of the recent protest at the Mt. Tabor Reservoir decommissioning hearing, this week's post will focus on informational links providing the back-story to the charges of municipal corruption as raised by protesters.
By way of background, reservoir activists have alleged that Portland's uniquely antiquated commission form of government may have been targeted by global engineering contractors in order to place operatives in powerful City positions, from whence Portland's Bull Run water system could serve as a profitable base for a multi-billion-dollar national industrial lobbying force. This lobby is alleged to have:
--Turned the land overlying Portland's backup municipal water source into a national ultraviolet lamp validation center via a back-room deal that includes a taxpayer-funded permit to dump mercury and coliform bacteriophages into Portland's rivers;
--Reshaped federal drinking water protections, such that industrial interests were given higher priority than protecting the public from radon exposure;
--Created an atmosphere of seeming untouchability, where auditors' and judges' warnings go unheeded, City officials harass whistleblowers, sewer rates pay for political campaigns, contracts are extended decades beyond schedule and millions beyond budget with little to show for it, and contractors get away with dumping toxins in local watersheds and leaving the public to pay for the permits and fines..
Thus, what follows is a list of links to crucial public records and investigative journalism compiled over the many years of this story's development.
WHY PORTLAND'S OPEN RESERVOIRS MATTER; LOCAL ACTIVISM PERSPECTIVE:
Concise coverage of the potential threats to both open reservoirs and urban forest at Mt. Tabor Park, from Stephanie Stewart, Land Use Co-Chair of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association. http://www.mtna-landuse.blogspot.com/2014/03/why-i-now-personally-support-portland.htmlURL.
Detailed and comprehensive public records compendium on the contractual irregularities surrounding Portland's no-bid insider dealings, from Floy Jones' watchdog organization, Friends of the Reservoirs http://www.friendsofreservoirs.org/;.
Critical examinations of the pseudoscientific claims advanced by City contractors to justify lobbying US EPA at rate payer expense for pro-industry modifications to drinking water regulations, compiled by microbiologist Scott Fernandez, MSc. http://bullrunwaiver.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/waive2014.pdf
Risk/Benefit analysis on open versus covered reservoirs by water activist Kenric Ashe. http://www.kenricashe.com/blog.cfm?cal=kenricashe&ID=5853A7C5-6805-CA10-407E-B333F8B490AE
PROBLEMS WITH PORTLAND'S UNIQUE FORM OF GOVERNMENT:
Civil rights activists discuss Portland's status as the last major US city to retain an at-large form of municipal government, and why that may not be a good thiing. http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/odd-city-out/Content?oid=10982122
WHO ARE CH2M HILL, MWH AND CAROLLO, AND WHY ARE THEY RAISING EYEBROWS WITH WATER ACTIVISTS?
CH2M Hill lets reservoir subcontractor dump chlorine into Johnson Creek; donates to anti-reform effort. http://mtna-landuse.blogspot.com/2014/04/company-hired-by-water-bureau-pollutes.html
No-bid CH2M Hill dealings land East Cleveland Mayor in prison. https://www.courtlistener.com/ca6/7F52/united-states-v-gray/Ch2M
New Orleans Inspector General action against MWH for Katrina-related corruption. http://www.nolaoig.org/uploads/File/Final%20Report%20With%20Appendices.pdf
CH2M Hill implicated in same Katrina controversy. http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13141
MWH insider no-bid dealings in Los Osos, California. http://www.newtimesslo.com/commentary/3471/sewer-project-would-dispossess-many-los-osos-homeowners/
MWH insider no-bid dealings in Morro Bay, California. http://www.slocoastjournal.com/docs/archives/2010/Nov/pages/news2.htm
MWH reservoir controversy in Seattle. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2009485902_reservoir17m.html
Joe Glicker, a key player in Portland's water controversy. http://whoisjoeglicker.wordpress.com/
Joe Glicker's harassment of Bull Run activist costs City of Portland $73,000. http://portlandtribune.com/component/content/article?id=121123
City of Portland officials hide Carollo development from public. http://bojack.org/2011/09/portland_water_bureau_played_p.html
City of Portland gives Carollo free (publicly funded) permit to discharge toxins and biological waste into Columbia River. http://bojack.org/2011/09/glug_glug_who.html
City of Portland officials harass KOIN-6 for exposing CH2M Hill's Powell Butte leaks. http://koin.com/2014/03/06/pwb-calls-koin-report-misleading/
PORTLAND CITY HALL'S HISTORY OF WATER/SEWER FUND MISMANAGEMENT:
Portland City Auditor blasts improper use of water/sewer funds. http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=53775&a=342881
Portland leadership unapologietic about misspent water/sewer funds. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2011/07/no_apologies_how_portland_comm.html
After judge's ruling, Portland leadership STILL unapologetic about misspent water/sewer funds. http://koin.com/2014/03/12/leonard-defends-loos-pwb-spending
City of Portland administrator caught trying to misallocate $200K in water/sewer funds. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/07/jack_graham_investigation_top.html
Investigator warns City of Portland that whistleblower in $200K fund misallocation scandal fears retaliation. http://media.oregonlive.com/portland_impact/other/Graham%20Investigation%20Report.pdf
City of Portland fires same whistleblower, then settles out of court. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/06/portland_whistleblower_rich_go.html
It's hard to pick up a paper or read an online discussion in Portland without hearing about the controversy surrounding Portland Water Bureau's handling of the open reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington Park. Unfortunately, media coverage sometimes aims more to sensationalize than to educate, leaving basic questions unanswered.
Our aim at Portland Water Info is to provide that basic information to the public.
Over the next few weeks we'll be expanding our "Frequently Asked Questions" list and adding links and citations. Subscribe via the link on our main page at www.portlandwater.info to receive updates as info is added. And if there are any other topics you'd like to see covered, please contact us through our Facebook page.
There are no known major health events attributable to open reservoirs in the US.
No. But in 2006 it did enact some new rules affecting them, known colloquially as "LT2." Though LT2 is highly technical in nature and affects all municipal water systems, it's worth learning a few details about it if one is interested in Portland's reservoirs.
LT2 can broadly be divided into two parts:
(1) All municipal water gets pre-treatment:
One part of LT2 requires pre-treatment before public drinking water is stored. This rule applies to all public water, regardless of how it is stored. An exemption to this part of LT2 is available to public water sources that meet stringent quality requirements. This is called a "treatment variance," and Portland is the only municipal water supplier in the US to have earned one.
(2) Water stored in open reservoirs also gets post-treatment:
Another part of LT2 affects only open-reservoir cities like Portland, requiring that their water undergo a second round of treatment (post-treatment) when it leaves open storage for distribution to the public. There are ways around this part of the rule as well, the most obvious being to cover or bury a reservoir so it that it no longer falls under this part of the rule--which is why this part of LT2 is often called the "cover-or-treat" rule. But another way for open reservoirs to avoid cover-or-treat is via a temporary exemption (a "cover-or-treat variance") or a permanent exemption (a "cover-or-treat waiver." When the federal government was negotiating with stakeholders over the drafting of LT2, it promised that cities like Portland could exempt their open reservoirs so long as they met certain safety requirements. But the US EPA then removed this option, without explanation, from the final rule that it published in 2006. In response to public outcry, the US EPA later backed away from this position and allowed cities with open reservoirs to continue using them while it reconsiders LT2.Did the State of Oregon outlaw open reservoirs?
No. It simply revised state law to resemble LT2 so that it could be deputized as the US EPA's agent and receive federal money to enforce LT2 locally. The public was told that this transfer of authority would make it easier for Oregon to preserve its open reservoirs.
But when the state's health bureaucracy got involved, things went awry.
At some point, with little fanfare or public process, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) inserted anti-open-reservoir language into the Oregon Administrative Rules. This language was then cited by Portland's pro-engineering bloc to justify decommissioning and replacing Portland's open reservoirs.
Water activists' main bones of contention regarding the open reservoir issue can be summarized as follows:
In local media, public officials with connections to the engineering lobby expressed an interest in decommissioning and replacing Portland's open reservoirs at least as early as 2002, long before federal drinking water regulations were amended to include the LT2 rule.
It was also around 2002 that local engineering lobbyists were sent at public expense to negotiate with EPA regulators in Washington, DC; and that SEC filings show that the engineering lobby expressing its desire for a federal regulatory environment that was more conducive to promoting large public works projects.
No. Before the reservoir-burial industry began its lobbying effort, several hundred US cities got their municipal water from open reservoirs. Now only three remain: New York City; Rochester, New York; and Portland, Oregon. The vast majority of US cities with open reservoirs unquestioningly paid the engineering industry to decommission and replace them. The global public works contractors who lobbied hardest for the LT2 rule have subsequently been implicated in numerous controversies over design flaws and no-bid revolving public works contracts, most notably Tampa Bay, Florida; Morro Bay and Los Osos, California; and Seattle, Washington.
Says one homeowner, "We feel we were lied to."
The three households, which include three children and two individuals with reduced immunity, became concerned when they were told by Portland Water Bureau on 5/23 that they may have been drinking contaminated water for three days. They decided to have their households' tap water tested independently, and the results all came back negative.
According to a group representative, "The City seems to have a habit of issuing boil-water notices over a weekend or holiday." (The City last issued a boil-water advisory on Saturday, 7/21/2012.) "And our neighborhood has a long history of being given conflicting information about our reservoir. Given the 30-hour testing window, weekend boil-water alerts seem almost tailor-made to prevent private citizens from being able independently verify whether our water is actually contaminated. This just raised too many red flags for us."
The home owners made special arrangements with an independent laboratory to do Saturday testing of five samples collected on Friday. This included persuading a lab employee to work on his day off so that sample incubation could begin within 30 hours of specimen collection, as required by lab protocol.
"We had to drive across town in holiday traffic to get the sterile vials before closing time; coordinate testing among the different homes; then drive back across town to the lab's after-hours drop box. But it was the only way we could independently test the City's claim that the reservoir was sending us contaminated water. Of course we had to wait for the results, so we boiled our water like everyone else. But at least in the end we found out what really was--or in this case wasn't--in our water."
A representative from the laboratory in question confirmed that the facility performs total coliform and E coli testing for several local municipalities, though not for City of Portland, which does its own testing.
Concluded one home owner: "If the City put reservoir politics before the truth, that's not acceptable. "
A website dedicated to informing the public about issues affecting municipal water quality and affordability in Portland, Oregon.
? Is Portland really under a federally imposed deadline to decommission its open reservoirs?
? Why hasn't the EPA ever finalized its "draft" rules governing radon in drinking water?
? What did Mt. Tabor home owners find when they independently tested five different taps during the May boil-water alert?
Watch this site as it develops. And learn. The answers may surprise you…..
Wednesday June 11th 6:30-8:30pm
Warner Pacific College McGuire Auditorium
2219 SE 68th Ave (map)
More site content coming soon!