If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!
Every body needs water. Survival training points to the fact that you can survive but 3 days without water. In this country, drinking water is taken for granted, and water treatment, part of the system Some systems need extensive treatments, all get the minimum.
But what if I told you that a drinking water source for a large metropolitan area comes from a pristine, totally protected environment? And what if I told you that this water flows to it’s destination all without the need for pumps except in certain configurations? And what if I told you that along the way, it generates, rather than uses, electric power? And what if I told you that this has been in existence for 100 years?
Now what if I told you that suddenly, this pristine source, this watershed of unmatched purity, was now subject to a sweeping law that insists that treatment for a specific organism that has never been detected must be implemented, at a staggering cost of $1 Billion? And finally, what would you think of a city council that will not fight for legislative relief, as priority #1? What would you think, what would you do?
This is the questions facing the people of Portland OR against the EPA LT2 rule for it’s Bull Run facility. So, let’s examine the Long Term 2 Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2 rule) where it came from and what the implications are for not only Portland but the rest of the nation as well.
First, a bit of History. Bull Run water system is a simple, 19th Century engineering project that brings water from a pristine lake in the Cascades of Oregon to Portland by gravitational flow. The lake is in a totally protected part of the national forest, so well protected that the types of pathogens normally seen in cities like Milwaukee WI are completely absent due to the fact that both agriculture and human activity are prohibited in the Bull Run Watershed.
In 1993, Milwaukee WI experienced a catastrophic sewage event with many microscopic pathogens, bur which the EPA stated was traced to one pathogen Cryptosporidium. (This was never proved true).
Fast forward to 2003 or so. After 9-11, engineers were painting a grim picture of what might happen to water supplies, which was being reviewed by an Independent Review Panel in Portland which included the consideration of Crypto as a serious element. The panel concluded that, given the nature of the Bull Run system, the science showed that this was not any kind of worry as infectious Crypto has never been detected, ever in Bull Run, and further, there was no law forcing Portland to do anything to the system as envisioned by these engineers, covering reservoirs, water treatment etc, and by an 8 to 5 vote, the commission recommended against going forward.
Enter EPA. EPA then decided, completely with no support from the science, to write a law which became known as Long Term 2 Surface Water Treatment Rule LT2 , whose only target was Crypto which mandates at all communities must implement solutions to exclude and/or treat the water for this pathogen, whether or not it has ever been detected in that system. And more to the point, on the committee which crafted the law were corporate engineers and individuals including a representative from Portland OR who stood to gain handsomely by implementing the law they just wrote. Now there is a law!
Convenient, ain’t it!
Portland is not alone in having such pure sources. NYC is another, whose public officials are pushing very hard to make implementation much more difficult. Portland City Council’s standard answer is it’s the law and we have to move quickly.
It’s the law.
I want to move on and examine this whole issue from another perspective, and he perspective is Debt is King. Along with that is the aphorism Socialize costs, privatize profits.
So far as debt is king, it’s been around a while. You want control? Loan ’em money. (Unless you are able to borrow so much that it puts the lending agency in big trouble if you cannot pay. Then you own them, or they get a US Government bailout!) But if we tie this to the idea of socialize costs, privatize profits, we now have a recipe for zeroing out risk and keeping the profits. And that, taken together, is what is at work here, and the proponents are being very industrious at implementing it. Simply, the costs are borne by the taxpayer, and the benefits go to the contractors. So there can be no interest in bypassing the EPA rule, as it is placed there in such a way that removing it jeopardizes this process, and no one in power seems to want to avoid this conundrum In the case of Portland’s water it is particularly noxious, we get to pay more for water whose quality level is degraded, by the simple fact that to counter the effects of underground storage, part of the EPA LT-2 (Long Term storage) rule, toxic and carcinogenic chemicals have to be added which were never called for in the natural Bull Run system.
To summarize where we are at this point, we have first, a simple, efficient pure source of drinking water for all of Portland using gravity feed to get the water to the open air reservoirs, being seriously and severely compromised into a complex system of treatment, first for a non-existent health problem and second to counter the effects of forcing covered reservoirs to replace the open reservoirs. Of course, the public gets to pay for this, $1Billion and counting for costs plus interest.
To get into the details further, here are two articles, one by RoseMarie Opp, Chair person for a Portland Neighborhood Association, and Scott Fernandez, a Microbiologist who has been studying this and commenting over a number of years. They were published in the Portland SE Examiner
Op Ed By RoseMarie Opp
from the Southeast Examiner
August, 30, 2010
When decisions are made affecting the health of our community such as adding toxic chemicals to our drinking water, should we not be informed? When decisions are made that will raise our water rates year after year, should we not be informed?
It is critical that we get our elected officials to stand up for our good drinking water, or we may end up with the EPA LT2 Rule forcing us into a corporate-designed water treatment process. We now have a natural, sustainable, minimally-treated water system.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s LT2 Rule (EPA Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment) is a one-size fits all rule.
Portland’s Bull Run water originates in a federally protected watershed and does not have the human sewage or cattle fecal contamination problems that caused this rule to come about. For over 100 years, Bull Run has provided us with pure, healthy water.
If we cannot get a waiver from the EPA LT2 Rule, our community will be over a billion dollars with debt for a public health problem that does not exist. Our water will be seriously degraded. We must insist that our congressional delegation asks the EPA to grant this Waiver.
Many citizens and organizations requested at a July 2009 hearing that our Portland City Council delay, in order to give Congress time to work on a Legislative Waiver. The Council would not delay, and voted to move forward with expensive projects.
Commissioner Leonard, the Mayor and Council need to give Senator Merkley the time he needs to get a Waiver instead of continuing on the road to add unnecessary treatments to our Bull Run drinking water and to destroy our Mt. Tabor and Washington Park Reservoirs.
We are in unpredictable economic times and have a gift from past generations of this predictable sustainable water system that offers our community stability into the future. Any money spent needs to be invested in the infrastructure and foundations to maintain the system that has served this community so well for 100 years.
We need to question the background of how this LT2 Rule came about. Who lobbied for the rule and will benefit financially?
Why is our good water an issue with EPA when EPA declines to intervene in polluted waters? Why did NY request a 10-year delay and our city wouldn’t? For those who are concerned about open reservoirs, why aren¬ít available bird wires considered and/or laser technologies that can detect unwanted intrusions in reservoirs within seconds to minutes?
I am not a scientist. I am a concerned citizen and I believe citizens need information, education, facts and rational science to prevail.
We should not allow unwarranted alarms and fears to pressure our community into accepting a billion dollar debt, and degraded water. This is our drinking water and we have a right to know and should have a say about the water we drink.
We need our community to pressure city council to say No to any EPA regulations not based on science, and to say No to the Water Bureau decisions and debt that may open the door to privatization and international water corporations. We must retain public ownership of our water. We cannot depend only on Council’s words on this, but must look at their actions and what can happen as a result of their decisions.
I encourage citizens to become informed and put pressure on our elected officials to get a Waiver for our community. Here are several links to relevant articles.
Op Ed By Scott Fernandez
M.Sc. Biology/ Microbiology
From the beginning, the EPA got it wrong. They took a one-time catastrophic sewage event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and made it into an unnecessary and expensive unfunded mandate. Portland’s drinking water has no municipal, agricultural, industrial or sewage exposure in the federally-protected Bull Run watershed.
The City of Portland Bull Run Treatment Panel concluded: benefits of the EPA’s required added drinking water treatment “probably would not be measurable”. We have since learned that any added drinking water treatment would considerably degrade our water quality by adding toxic and carcinogenic contaminants.
The Portland City Council’s 2009 choice of UV radiation would introduce toxic formaldehyde, Teflon coated light bulb sleeves, and the risk of broken bulbs leading to Mercury poisoning in our water. EPA also wants us to cover the reservoirs at Washington Park and Mount Tabor. After a four month review, Portland Independent Review Panel made the following conclusion: the reservoirs can remain open with improved security and risk mitigation measures.
We can easily and inexpensively accomplish that recommendation. Sunlight is needed to help disinfect and break down help unwanted chemical by-products. Covering the reservoirs will promote entry of toxic and carcinogenic gases
such as chloroform and Radon into our schools, homes, and businesses. The cost for all of this unnecessary work on our drinking water system is over a billion dollars including debt service. We will be giving our children and grandchildren expensive, degraded, drinking water for no measurable scientific or public health benefit.
Keep our water system sustainable.
Please write to Senator Merkley and ask for his help to obtain a waiver exempting us from this unfair rule.
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
I am bringing this to FDL because it is painfully obvious that the efforts to destroy our way of life, based on constitutional construction, is under way big time, and that debt is the vehicle of choice, in big and small ways, big and small communities. It isn’t just a problem at the federal level it is all over, and federal regulations are being used to implement private gain. And I think I know where the money to loan is coming from.
Can you spell b-a-i-l-o-u-t?
It is almost overwhelming to consider what individuals can do at the Federal level. It is not to difficult to figure it out locally. If this City Council just had some guts, they would stand up to EPA and say “Make Me!” to their demands we spend this money, that we double, then double again, the water rates to pay for a non-existent problem.
This is a good site for additional information. It includes the two articles submitted in this post.
I’ve invited Scott Fernandez to join us in this discussion. He has all the knowledge and experience I lack to give it real form and substance.