Enviros and brewers question Portland filtration proposal

Regna Merritt from Oregon Wild, writing an op-ed in today's Oregonian:

For over a century, the Portland area has enjoyed some of the finest drinkingwater in the world -- and saved hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. It's all thanks to our protected Bull Run Watershed, the source of our clean, pure water. Tomorrow, that century of protection is on the line, and the purity of our drinking water could go right down the drain.

The Portland City Council will vote on a water treatment proposal at City Hall. Oregon Wild, along with many others, opposes the Water Bureau resolution before the council. The bureau's decision to rely on expensive chemical filtration could force measures that are unnecessary, wasteful and will degrade our water and watershed.

The current resolution has many flaws. By selecting the most expensive and chemically intensive option for direct filtration, this plan would eliminate any possibility of future relief from Congress to avoid the onerous obligations of LT2. The resolution would allow efforts to secure an administrative variance from the rule to continue, but would give the Water Bureau total control over the final decision about whether, when and where to short-circuit these efforts and continue with construction of a treatment plant. 


Chemical filtration is the opposite of green and sustainable: It comes with a heavy carbon footprint. On top of that, treatment will change the taste, smell and feel of our water forever with the addition of substances with names like cationic polymers, ferric chloride and aluminum sulfate. To add insult to injury, once Portland water becomes run-of-the-mill treated water, there could be demands to open the Bull Run watershed to harmful logging and development that will pollute its water and increase the risk of fire.

In recent days, the Craft Brewers Alliance has come out in opposition to changing the current treatment of Bull Run water, the centerpiece of a brewery renaissance that has put Portland on the map. "It's not what's wrong with Portland water; it's what's right with it," said Sebastian Pastore, vice president of brewing operations at Widmer Brothers.

Read the rest here.


  • jamie (unverified)

    Oh MY GOD a scary name!!!

    The question is how much, if any remains in the water.

    You want a scary name of something that actually kills thousands to millions of people every year: Di-hydrogen monoxide. Who wants this in their water?

    Thanks JK

  • Rob (unverified)

    The last I heard, the City was considering ultraviolet sterilization verses sand filtration, neither of which would change the flavor of the water, which is due to the mineral content.

    Personally I like the water as it is and believe the City should pursue wavers to the end. But I also like science.

    Sounds like the Water Bureau should have a citizens advisory committee ongoing which could include the craft brewers.

  • small g green (unverified)

    Rob, do you have a reference for your assertion that sand (chemical) filtration would not change the taste of water, separate from concerns about trace chemical residue?

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    Let me try the post again. My first apparently didn't go through.

    The problem with any filtration method is that it then frees the Water Bureau to use other sources of water other than the Bull Run. They have already indicated that they would like to "blend" Bull Run water with water from the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Cryptosporidium does not exist in BUll Run. The EAP's one-size-fits-all appraoch to this dangerous, yet non-existent toxin in BUll Run should show all why a centralized planning powere issuing edicts is dangerous on many fronts.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Oops, EPA, sorry. I mixed up my acronyms.

  • Rob (unverified)

    Small g green, that is a good question. My answer is based on first principles in science - UV just kills organisms which shouldn't have any taste impact, living or dead. Sand filtration is actually a bio process, no chemicals, which seems unlikely to be able to absorb enough minerals to make a difference.

    There is a challenge that there is no measurement of taste, the best would be blind studies with human tasters.

    <h2>I do agree that Portland seems to up the chlorine in the summer which is unpleasant and I distrust the Columbia wells which are close to documented groundwater contamination.</h2>

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