Portland Utility Board and Testimony, July 2017

My name is Dr Joe Meyer and I love ping pong. The doctor is in Physics and I understand something of the natural world and of complex systems. I speak as a Portland citizen and rate payer. I am also a citizen reporter and covered the Portland Water Bureau for KBOO News five plus years ago when our open reservoirs were condemned.

The similarities between the events five years ago and the events of today caused me to put down my ball and give up this testimony.

Five years ago every one involved, from the Portland Water Bureau, the Portland City Council, Friends of Reservoirs, and the County Health Doctor agreed that there was no public health benefit in the LT2 motivated projects. Likewise, the proposals at issue today have no public health benefit. In fact, considering the addition of known harmful materials into our drinking water system, the overall public health benefit must be considered a gross negative.

The simple truth is that 125 years ago the citizens of Portland constructed a simple and elegant drinking water system. In 125 years of use, no one has ever gotten sick from Crypto in our drinking water – the far greater dangers of Crypto are at swimming pools and daycare centers. For 125 years our drinking water has been inexpensive, safe, and delicious – the envy of other cities. Back 125 years ago, the citizens of Portland had the ingenuity and political will to control their own water supply – no multinational consultants required.

This time around, the Portland Water Bureau points to hypothetical future health benefits of infrastructure project at Bull Run. And, as per the minutes of your July 18th meeting, Commissioner Fish entered into the record that the number one common thread he got in feedback is ‘How should the City protect public health’. This is a wholly unscientific contribution to the discussion which insinuates a public health issue where there is none, like a little pee.

A hurried time-line is another consistent theme for Portland Water Bureau projects. Last time around, when I interviewed Commission Amanda Fritz for KBOO News, for example, she told me that she felt steam rollered by Commissioners Leonard and Fish on Water Bureau issues.

Five years ago citizen activist advocated for an extended delay in the LT2 compliance timeline. Citizens argued that rate payers were already burdened by rate increases and that alone was sufficient grounds for a delay in compliance. David Schaff, then director of the Portland Water Bureau stated on the KBOO Evening News that a delay on financial grounds was not even worth pursuing – and in fact Portland did not pursue this simple option. When, a few months later, Rochester New York received a delay until 2034 based on economic hardship, it was clear that the activists were correct and that the Portland Water Bureau had misdirected and misadvised City Council. Portland lost our open reservoirs and suffered another round of rate increases, all for no good reason. To this day, Rochester citizens still enjoy healthful water from their open reservoirs and reasonable water rates. Why this difference?

This time around the hurried time frame seemed to emerge with the Portland Water Bureau requesting that the Oregon Health Authority find them out of compliance seven months before the reporting deadline. Why would they do that? A citizen activist suggested to me that the Portland Water Bureau loves to move things through quickly in the summer to minimize public engagement and due consideration. At this point, that is hard to doubt. The hurry-up-don’t-think is again revealed in last weeks meeting minutes with commissioner Fish’s warning that if this body doesn’t quickly select either A or B than they will lose their voice altogether.

The third similarity between the campaign five years ago and the current effort is a lack of honest effort at seeking regulatory relief. Rochester New York worked with their senator, Chuck Schumer, to push back on LT2. Five years ago, when I asked Senator Merkely why Portland was spending a half a billion dollars to bury our reservoirs while Rochester was not, he replied that local leadership was required and that he had not heard from Portland City Hall. This time around, I again see no evidence of honest effort at seeking regulatory relief.

My first request is that this body takes due time to understand all available options and offer a well considered recommendation. Even a null result is much better than an ill-considered rubber stamp.

My second request is that you please study, and adapt as needed, a Rochester-style solution. A delay until 2034 will give rate payers a break and allow the science of LT2 mature. If everyone agrees that there is no public health benefit then what is the hurry?

My third request is that this body actively reach out to Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden and New York Senator Schumer (who helped save Rochester’s open reservoirs), as well as Governor Brown who oversees the Oregon Health Authority, and even theRealDonaldTrump in updating LT2 based on the best available science.

As the saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Portland deserves better.

Please enter into the record this 10 minute radio piece documenting David Schaff, then director of Portland Water Bureau incorrectly asserting that a Rochester style reprieve was impossible:
http://kboo.fm/media/14970-open-reservoirs-rochester-receives-reprieve-while-portland-plows-ahead

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