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Oh boy, drinking water report is here

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Full disclosure time: I live just up the hill from Tigard, a stone's throw from PCC's Sylvania campus and a gold nugget's fling from the northern edge of Lake Oswego - which means I'm a resident of the big fat town that starts with a 'P' and rhymes with 'schmortland.'

We don't like to mention the P-word in our community papers, because we don't want our readers getting the idea that we who bring you your news and information light our tiki torches with $100 bills or that we don't understand life in the suburbs. To be honest, I know a lot more about what's going on in Beaverton and Tualatin than I do in the town where I reside.

That may be why I was so thrilled to receive the 'Portland Water Bureau Drinking Water Quality Report 2008' in the mail recently. It's good to get explanations of what they're doing with the income from those $170 water bills I pay every three months. (And yes, I know that this amount also covers my sewer service, which is a whole other kettle of fish, so to speak.)

You might not realize it at first blush, but the Drinking Water Quality Report contains a lot of useful information.

'The most important information contained in this report,' according to Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff, 'is that Portland's drinking water quality continues to meet all state and federal regulations.'

But don't be thrown off by Mr. Shaff's modesty. City Commissioner Randy Leonard, elected by the people and actually known as the 'commissioner in charge,' is a little more forceful about it. 'From forest to faucet, the Portland Water Bureau delivers the best drinking water in the world,' he boasts.

Now, I think the same rule applies to official water bureau reports as newspapers: You can't print it if it isn't true, so obviously, Portland water - collected in Bull Run Lake, high on the slopes of Mount Hood and passed along through a couple of reservoirs and then down the hill to P-town - is unparalleled anywhere.

This is good news for suburban residents, too, because pretty much everybody in eastern Washington County gets some of that water, thanks to agreements between our assorted cities and water districts and Portland. Oh, sure, some local jurisdictions have access to Clackamas River water, via Lake Oswego, and even some from the Coast Range, west of Forest Grove, but those sources are pretty danged pristine, too, and it all ends up in the same high-quality water cocktail we like to brag about to our friends and family members in other parts of the country.

This should not be confused, however, with the water pulled out of the Willamette River by the city of Wilsonville, considered by some of our more politically motivated readers as kind of like when the dog drinks out of the toilet. It doesn't seem to bother him, but the rest of the family doesn't do it. Most of our communities, in fact, have passed special resolutions preventing our city fathers from making a secret deal with Wilsonville to use that water without approval of the voters. The Portland report, of course, makes no mention of the Willamette River.

Here are some other highlights of the report, some of which I've chosen to interpret in ways not sanctioned by the Portland Water Bureau, for reasons that will quickly become obvious.

n Bull Run water is not filtered or treated with fluoride. 'You may want to consult with your dentist about fluoride treatment to help prevent tooth decay,' says the bureau, no doubt due to pressure from the powerful dentists' lobby.

n 'Portland's water is very soft,' says the report, failing to add that this is why you could jump out of an airplane into Bull Run Lake and probably wouldn't get hurt because it would be like landing on really big cotton balls.

n 'The pH of Portland's drinking water typically ranges from 7.2 to 8.2.' Anyone who understands what that means is somebody you wouldn't want to sit next to on a cross-country bus trip.

n There's a long section in the report on cryptosporidium, 'a microorganism naturally present in bodies of surface water throughout the world' but in 'very low' amounts in Portland water so the city filed a legal challenge against a new federal rule requiring additional treatment for unfiltered water systems like Portland's. Cryptospor-idium should not be confused with kryptonite, the green stuff that makes Superman lose his super powers.

n The rumor that there could be a large sea monster-like creature in Bull Run Lake is not only not mentioned in the Drinking Water Quality Report, it was totally made up by me, just now, in hopes of keeping you interested.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.