Reservoir plan based on sketchy science

SECOND OPINION • Is reservoir security a bargain at any price or just another massive money blunder?

The true financial costÊof the Open Reservoir Replacement Project could be fairly calculated at around $96 million when including an approximateÊ$20 million share ofÊadditional storage costs at Powell Butte because of decommissioning someÊof the storage at Mount Tabor. That's an increase of 48 percent over the original $65 million.

Not only did theÊcity fall 'a bit short'Êon the true costs of the security package, but itÊfell very short on responsible consideration of rate savings through much cheaper and very adequate means of scaring off that 'one in how many million?' bogey manÊwho has decided to come to town with the mysterious plutonium-like rare substance.

Not to mention the faulty billing system we areÊpaying for and millions in other expenditures coming down the pike that we will fund if the city gets its way. Portland water rates are second- or third-highest in the country and are on the way to being No. 1.

I wonder if the odds of death from poisoned water from Mount Tabor's reservoirs are higherÊthan death by automobile, flying or lightning strike? Asteroid?ÊOf course, any of theseÊoddsÊsuits Commissioner Dan Saltzman's criteria for burialÊwhen he says,Ê'Is it very likely? No. Is it possible? Absolutely.'ÊNow there you have some rigorously developed odds.Ê

And what's that substance we are primarilyÊspending all this money for at the speed of light?ÊQuoting again from newspaper sources last March, 'Some researchers remain skeptical about the risk of a water system threat.ÊIssues still in doubt nationally are: How manyÊsubstances are a potential threat, how those substances will react to chlorine in treated water and whether backpack-sized quantities of toxins that may resist disinfection are practical to obtain.'

In addition, Portland Water Bureau officials acknowledged that the 'science surrounding the risk of an attack is still sketchy.'Ê

As a city, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the reservoirs' incredibly rich history and their intrinsic value to the parks and to Portland Ñ our 'crown jewels' Ñ rather than dismiss them as 'outdated infrastructure.'

Steve Reinemer, a member of Friends of the Reservoirs, has reflected on and imbibed Mount Tabor water for the last 17 years. He lives in Southeast Portland.