Sunday, April 3, 2011

A direct appeal to Portland City Commissioners and Mayor Adams, March 2011

During recent years, extensive and expensive tests performed in Bull Run and at
our in-town reservoirs demonstrated scientifically what we have all suspected for
years, the lack of Cryptosporidium in our water. We also now know that costs for
meeting current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance timelines
for construction of new water storage and treatment are extremely high and
come at a time when Portland ratepayers are particularly economically
vulnerable. As stated multiple times by multiple public health officials, there will
be no measurable public health benefit derived from expensive new treatment
and storage currently required by the EPA. We can now prove it, and given that
proof, we are asking for you to change the City’s policy on the LT2 projects.

Now, with new EPA information in hand, we submit the following
recommendations for your timely consideration. Without strong and immediate
action on your part, steep water rate increases will likely force families to leave
their homes and force businesses to leave Portland, increasing the financial
burden on remaining ratepayers while degrading our quality of life.

We ask you to please:

1) Direct the Water Bureau to work with the federal congressional delegation to
secure from the EPA immediate postponement or deferral of both LT2
compliance timelines.

2) Revise and expand the timeline for new water storage construction and direct

the Water Bureau to cease all ground-breaking construction activities related to
LT2 at least during the next fiscal year.

3) Modify the Water Bureau budget, decreasing the investment in LT2- related
capital improvement projects next year and significantly decreasing the
proposed 2011-2012 water rate increase, now projected to be 13.9%.

4) Support submittal of a variance application for in-town reservoirs, based on
the water quality findings of the 2010 American Water Works Association
Research Foundation study (Project 3021). Request that the Drinking Water
Program of the Oregon Health Authority, having assumed primacy for
implementation of the LT2 rule, grant a “clean water variance” for Bull Run
treatment and treatment of finished water in protected in-town reservoirs. Based
on the City of New York’s legal opinion and other research, a variance for open
reservoirs from LT2 covering mandates is authorized under the Safe Drinking
Water Act. It can be granted by the State as it has elected primacy over the
same. It is within Portland’s right to pursue such a variance. Should such an
application be refused, the EPA and/or the State would have to provide a basis
for that decision, and that justification would be subject to legal challenge which
Portland would prevail on.

5) Engage our federal congressional delegation in long-term work to secure
permanent regulatory compliance through a legislative remedy. Such a remedy
is now more likely given the new 112th Congress and continuing economic
challenges faced by the nation as a whole.

Today we have a historic opportunity to restore rationality to public health
decisions, and responsibility to our budgetary process. Thank you for your
efforts thus far and thank you in advance for your further work.

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Bull Run Watershed