Friday, August 26, 2011

Let's get going!

Yesterday our coalition sent an appeal to Senator Jeff Merkley. Read the letter here.

Jeff has been an effective advocate for Bull Run for the past few years, having secured an important agreement with Lisa Jackson of the EPA. (The federal agency will not oppose a state variance that will allow Portland rate-payers to avoid unnecessary and wasteful construction and treatment of our Bull Run source water. That request for a variance is under consideration by the Oregon Drinking Water Program right now.)

Jeff was interviewed on OPB's Think Out Loud show today. (See Press Room.) There he stated that, given the new response from Lisa Jackson to a request sent by Senator Schumer-NY, he's ready to jump in to stop the unnecessary covering/treating of our in-town reservoirs, too, if given the clear support of the Portland City Council.

What are we waiting for? Let's get going!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thank You!

Since our letter to Senator Wyden was sent last week, others have joined the call to action, including
  • Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association
  • Central Eastside Industrial Council
  • Portland Business Alliance
  • Eileen Brady, member of the Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Independent Review Panel (2004) and candidate for Mayor of Portland                                 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Finally - Breakthrough!

Today,  the Portland Water Bureau requested an indefinite time-out on its reservoir compliance schedule approved by the EPA and the State of Oregon. Read excerpts of a letter sent by David Shaff to David Leland at the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Drinking Water Program below.  (See Press Room for text of full letter.)

"Last Friday in a letter from Administrator Lisa Jackson, the EPA reversed its longstanding refusal to review the requirements of the federal LT2 rule as they pertain to uncovered finished drinking water reservoirs. The reversal came in response to a July 20th request from Senator Chuck Schumer to the agency.   In the letter, the EPA states:
          “ part of the Agency’s Final Plan for Periodic Retrospective Review of Regulations, as well     as the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the Agency will review the LT2 rule. In doing so, EPA will reassess and analyze new data and information regarding occurrence, treatment, analytical methods, health effects, and risk from viruses, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium to evaluate whether there are new or additional ways to manage risk while assuring equivalent or improved public health protection.” 

"In light of this significant and unanticipated change in federal drinking water policy, the City requests an indefinite suspension in Portland’s uncovered drinking water reservoir compliance schedule during EPA’s review of the federal LT2 rule. It is critical to the City to remain in regulatory compliance with the LT2 rule during EPA’s review and it therefore seeks written approval from the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program of Portland’s request for a suspension of the City’s state approved schedule."

Right on. The EPA has NO DATA on the health effects of open and/or closed reservoirs and it was foolish to establish a cookie-cutter rule that has no basis in science. Especially when the City of Portland has data showing that there is no illness related to water from our pristine source and from our uncovered reservoirs. 

While we don't agree with all elements of the The  Oregonian editorial that followed on the heels of the Water Bureau letter, we absolutely agree with the editors that:

"New York's success in getting the EPA to reconsider argues that maybe Portland's leaders could have put more muscle into winning regulatory relief, too. Ditto for the Oregon congressional delegation, which also could -- and should -- have been working harder behind the scenes." 

And we heartily endorse this sentiment: 

"Now it's time for everyone to step it up. Gone is the excuse that the EPA will never bend. Nonsense. Now, once again, Portland has the perfect opening to press its case. The delegation, the mayor and City Council must wring every advantage for Portland ratepayers from the EPA's newly open mind." 

It's high time. Let's go!

Commissioner Fritz: Leadership

We thank Commissioner Amanda Fritz for her steadfast defense of our drinking water and pocketbooks. While some on the Portland City Council ask our congresssional delegation to provide information, she provides sorely needed leadership in her renewed call for a halt to unnecessary and wasteful construction.  Excerpts from her statement are below.

"With the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Safe Drinking Water Act regulation often referred to as LT2, with respect to open reservoirs in New York, the City of Portland should halt plans to move forward with Kelly Butte underground reservoir construction until further regulatory review is completed."

"If there is a chance that we can save water ratepayers money, we need to take a timeout and review our options."

"In light of the recent success of New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to win a stay on open reservoir coverage in New York, along with White House directives to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, clearly it is time to reassess Portland's LT2 Compliance policy.  We should start by asking for a change in the schedule for compliance, and the associated multimillion dollar construction projects. Those include the Ultraviolet treatment facility EPA is requiring to treat our Bull Run water even though it doesn't have the Cryptosporidium contaminant, and  underground facilities EPA says are needed to store treated water.  Thorough research by the Water Bureau has shown that treating our source water is unnecessary. EPA has not demonstrated that covering our reservoirs will improve public health, yet we know that it will impose extreme and unnecessary financial burdens on the ratepayers."

"...More than 80 individuals and groups from all interests - businesses, unions, environmentalists, neighbors -- ratepayers all -- have signed on to the Water Users group position on this matter, which includes asking for a time out, and seeking regulatory and/or compliance timeline relief."

"With this new development by the EPA for New York, I am again asking my colleagues on the Portland City Council to join together with these citizens and others, in asking the EPA to allow the City of Portland to reopen and make changes to our compliance plan and schedule..."  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Exciting News!

Our coalition sent a letter to Senator Ron Wyden on August 18, 2011 which requested that he work with Senator Charles Schumer to reform the LT2 Rule on open reservoirs. (Schumer had written a July letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting relief on LT2 open reservoir requirements for New York City, a move we applauded from afar. New York City residents will be forced to pay $1.6 billion to cover the Hillview Reservoir if there is no relief.)

Then Jackson responded with a letter to Schumer on August 19, stating:"I agree with you that we should and can find cost-effective ways of achieving these public health protections. For this reason, EPA will initiate a review process for the regulation requiring covers on reservoirs such as Hillview."

Steve Duin broke the story (or was it Steve Novick?) At any rate, now is the time for our congressional delegation to work with Schumer and the EPA to reform this cookie-cutter rule and give Portland a variance or a waiver from this unreasonable requirement. We should not be forced to pay half-billion dollars to treat a public health problem that does not exist here!

Since our letter was sent to Senator Wyden, others have joined the call to action, including
  • Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association
  • Central Eastside Industrial Council
  • Portland Business Alliance
  • Eileen Brady, member of the Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Independent Review Panel (2004) and candidate for Mayor of Portland

Bull Run Watershed