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Burke a promoter of Willamette drinking water

(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Kathy Newcomb is vice-president and research analyst for Citizens for Safe Water.)

One of the greatest supporters of the Willamette River for drinking water in Washington County is Richard Burke, running for re-election to Tualatin Valley Water District. But you would never know it by reading his statement for the voters' pamphlet on the county Web site. (www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/at/election/May07/vp0507/pdf)

He states that in 1999, he 'opposed building a water treatment plant on the Willamette.' In fact, he was elected on that basis.

But soon after that Burke switched positions. And ever since he has been a staunch promoter of the Willamette.

Right now Burke continues to chair the Willamette River Water Coalition, which has been busy for several years promoting the use of Willamette water for our drinking water. The coalition is funded by our water fees as customers of TVWD, Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood and Gladstone.

Last month the three members present (Burke, Councilor Tom Woodruff of Tigard, and another member representing Sherwood) voted to hire a new public relations firm - using our water fees - to promote the Willamette River as 'a clean, safe and cost-efficient source of potable water.' Cost: About $4,500 per month - paid by our water fees.

The Willamette is a clean source? A safe source? Nonsense. This is the same river that everyone else in the Willamette Valley is trying to clean up, from the governor on down. The Willamette has been voted the 10th most polluted river in the country. Even eating the resident fish can raise your cancer risk.

(In fact, the Willamette is also looking less and less likely as 'a cost-efficient source of potable water.' It is now costing TVWD about $1 million to learn that pipes, etc., to the Willamette will cost almost $.5 billion or more.)

A few months ago, our Tualatin representative to the coalition, Councilor Ed Truax, requested that WRWC support a state study of the impact of global warming on the Willamette and provide some funding - at least a small amount --to help with the study. Chair Burke's response was 'no funding.'

The coalition did eventually send a letter to the governor supporting the study. But no money.

Under Burke's 'leadership,' the coalition set up a budget for next year. The budget is being sent out to the five members for approval this spring. One category in the budget is 'public information' - $30,000. Another category is 'water quality' - no funding at all.

This is budget time for cities and for TVWD. As a long-term member of the Tualatin city Budget Committee, I will be expressing my objections to the coalition's misuse of our water fees.

Also, it is election time (May 15). Ed Cleary and Marie Haynes are running for TVWD commissioner positions. They, like many of us, are not interested in drinking Willamette River water until and unless the river is cleaned up. Unlike Burke, they certainly do not believe the Willamette is now a 'clean, safe' source of potable water. We all need Cleary and Haynes on the TVWD board.