Water bureau recommends hybrid crypto option

The hybrid option would comply with EPA rules

The Bull Run Reservoir east of Portland (KOIN, file)
The Bull Run Reservoir east of Portland (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The week before the City Council is scheduled to choose an option for fighting a potentially deadly parasite in the Bull Run watershed, the Portland Water Bureau is recommending the so-called hybrid option.

It calls for building an ultraviolet plant at the Bull Run Reservoir while also setting money aside every year to build a filtration plant at another location when it wears out.

It is unclear what option the council will choose at its Aug. 2 hearing. A UV plant that kills cryptosporidium can be built in five years for a total cost of $105 million, including $17 million for upgrades already approved and funded at the reservoir. A filtration plant would cost between $350 million and $500 million to build and could take 10 years to complete.

Mayor Ted Wheeler first suggested the hybrid option as a way the council could comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules against crypto — as the parasite is commonly called — as soon as possible, while still moving in the direction of a filtration plant that removes more contaminants from the water.

Since then, however, the filtration option has been recommended by Multnomah County Health Officer Paul Lewis and the Portland Utility Board, which the council created in 2015 to advise it on rate-related utility issues. Water rates would have to be raised to pay for all three options, with the filtration plant requiring much higher increases than the UV plant.

At the same time, the Portland Business Alliance has endorsed the hybrid option, while the Craft Beer Alliance says it prefers a UV plant, if anything has to be done at all.

The Oregon Health Authority has directed the council to submit its compliance plan by Aug. 11. The OHA had granted Portland a variance to the EPA rule because Bull Run water has historically been so clean. But the OHA revoked the variance effective Sept. 22 after required testing repeatedly found crypto in the reservoir earlier this year.

You can read the proposed resolution with the water bureau’s recommendation here.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner.