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.
I have been working on this matter with multiple community partners since 2009, advocating for pursuing strategies that better control water rates. Citizens pushed successfully to save $500 million in 2009, with my leadership inside City Hall engineering a reversal of previously-unquestioned plans to install a costly filtration system for pristine Bull Run water. I voted against the water rate ordinance the past two years, because the City was not doing enough to challenge these unnecessary EPA directives. I proposed adding a budget note in 2011-12 seeking regulatory relief, with any resulting savings to go to decrease water rates, but was unable to win majority support on the Council. I voted against the May 2011 contract for $80 million starting construction of a second tank on Powell Butte, in part because I believe more underground storage is not necessary if we gain regulatory relief from the state and the EPA.
I particularly commend Regna Merritt, Floy Jones, Kent Craford and many other citizens for their dedicated, intelligent, insightful advocacy on behalf of water users and 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. I concur with the letter Commissioner Leonard has sent to our Congressional Delegation seeking their assistance in reviewing our options moving forward.