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Portland Utility Board: Water Treatment Decision Needs More Time

Portland’s Utility Board has officially requested the City Council ask for more time to research whether ratepayers are better served by a water filtration plant or an ultraviolet light facility to treat its drinking water.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Ted Wheeler, city commissioners and Water Bureau Commissioner-in-Charge Nick Fish, the board urged council members to advocate for an extension before deciding on treatment technology. They added that without complete information at this time, PUB unanimously believes water filtration — the more expensive of the two options — best meets the city’s needs.

The Portland City Council is scheduled to vote Aug. 2 on how it will treat the city’s drinking water for the parasite cryptosporidium in the Bull Run water reservoirs.

The options are a $105 million ultraviolet light treatment plant or a water treatment facility that could cost anywhere between $350 million and $500 million.

At a PUB meeting on July 18, Fish warned the board that they could shut themselves out of the decision-making process by asking for more time.

“My only fear on the fourth option is that if that is the consensus with PUB, and the Oregon Health Authority refuses to extend the clock, you would be taking yourself out of the game,” Fish said at the meeting. “And you would have to weigh that against not having a voice in the decision-making.”

The oversight board says regardless of which treatment option the city council chooses, “there needs to be more frequent and more complete public engagement.”

Fish has said that the city council needs to select a treatment option by early August to comply with an Aug. 11 deadline set by the Oregon Health Authority.

Fish did not immediately respond for comment.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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