Cryptosporidium is a fun word to say out loud. And it would be a great weapon to use against a comic book superhero. You know: 'Aquaman dodges cryptosporidium bullet.'

In the real world, however, cryptosporidium is a very real human health concern. And of late it's made a few people nervous in relation to the water supplies for Gresham, Portland, neighboring cities and water districts.

Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes a gastrointestinal illness. Humans become infected by consuming contaminated water from streams or rivers, such as the Bull Run watershed, which is the major supplier of the region's untreated drinking water. Those who become infected may develop diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting and even a fever. The symptoms can last for weeks.

Don't worry: Recent testing came up empty on cryptosporidium in the Bull Run water supply. That's reason to cheer, because that finding surely went a long way toward the Oregon Health Authority's announcement that it intends to grant a variance to the city of Portland from a requirement to treat the Bull Run water for cryptosporidium.

If the city were forced to treat its water - for a problem that doesn't exist - it would pass the $55 million cost of building a treatment facility on to the water users. That's a cost nobody needs even during the best economic climate.

The variance isn't a done deal - it's the subject of a Dec. 14 hearing being convened by the Oregon Health Authority. But we're confident the Health Authority's recent announcement is a step in the right direction. And we're hopeful that the variance is approved and the region's 'aqua' people can - in reality - dodge this cryptosporidium bullet.

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