Portland Water Bureau customers must boil water

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6 ) — Everyone who is a customer of the Portland Water Bureau is under a boil water advisory until further notice.

Water samples taken at three locations over a three-day period tested positive for bacteria.

All customers should boil all tap water used for drinking, preparing food and ice and tooth brushing for at least one minute.

The incidents happened between May 20-23, officials said. The presence of total coliform and E. coli in drinking water samples were confirmed. Ice or beverages prepared with unboiled tap water on or after May 20 should be thrown out.


The samples that tested positive were taken from outlets of Mt. Tabor Reservoirs 1 and 5, and at the water sampling station at SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street.

Both reservoirs are now offline and the sampling station system has been flushed, officials said. During an emergency noon news conference Friday, City Commissioner Nick Fish and Portland Water Bureau officials addressed the public on the issue.

PWB administrator David Shaff said this — the third boil order to impact the city since 2009 — is the largest the bureau has ever issued.

But Tri-County health officer Paul Lewis said despite the far-reaching advisory, the bacteria found in the samples are not as serious as the recent outbreak stemming from an Idaho sprout company.

“The chance of any health problems related to this water test result is low. If any problems occur, we would expect diarrhea,” he said. “We monitor cases of bacterial diarrhea and will be aware of any increase following this event.”

Officials said they may never know the cause of the contamination, but have sent the positive E. coli sample to a specialized lab for further testing.

The boil order will not be lifted until results show no contamination. The lab’s results are expected back sometime Saturday morning, according to Shaff.

The Portland Water Bureau confirmed its downed status via Twitter at 11:15 a.m., but it is back up now.

The website, which users can utilize to view if their residence is impacted, returned to operation around 1:30 p.m.

Who is Affected

Boil order issued for all Portland Water Bureau customers May 23, 2014.

All customers of the Portland Water Bureau are affected, including customers of:

  • Burlington Water District
  • City of Gresham (North of I-84)
  • Lake Grove Water District
  • Lorna Portland Water
  • Palatine Hill Water District
  • Rockwood Water District
  • Tigard Water Service Area (including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain)
  • Valley View Water District
  • West Slope Water District

An estimated 670,000 people use the bureau’s water.

The Impact

Following the news, entire grocery stores shelves were emptied of bottled water.

The bottled water shelves at the Safeway on SW 10th and Jefferson are nearly empty after a boil water advisory was issued for Portland, May 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The bottled water shelves at the Safeway on SW 10th and Jefferson are nearly empty after a boil water advisory was issued for Portland, May 23, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Portland Public Schools classes opted to continue through the day, with lunches being served with alternative drinks.

Hospitals like Providence Portland Medical Center converted to bottle water to serve patients and staff.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters closed all of their locations for the remainder of the day.

Restaurants that did stay open placed make-shift signs barring the use of water.

Public water fountains across Portland were shut off.

Rose Festival organizers said Friday they’ve instructed all CityFair vendors to dump any product previously made with tap water.

What you need to know 

  • Home filtration systems do not substitute for boiling water. Your water should be boiled to be safe.
  • Home water filters do not need to be replaced, but a schedule should be maintained as recommended by the manufacturer
  • The water is still safe for your pet. Animals have a higher innate protection against E. Coli than humans.
  • If you can’t boil water, it can be treated with unscented chlorine bleach. Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon, let it stand for 30 minutes before using.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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