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State denies city request to delay covering reservoirs

Decision means Portland Water Bureau must end use of Mt. Tabor and Washington park open-air reservoirs

The Oregon Health Authority has rejected the Portland Water Bureau's request to delay covering open-air water reservoirs at Mt. Tabor and Washington parks.

The decision means Portland must end the use of the reservoirs by the end of 2020. Portland had requested an extension until 2026.

'We are very disappointed in this decision,' said bureau Administrator David Shaff in a prepared statement. 'We made a case to the state that was very similar to the one made by New York City in successfully extending its reservoir compliance schedule. Oregon is clearly choosing a very different approach for administering federal drinking water rules."

The Portland Water Bureau asked for the delay based on the challenges of managing several large design and construction projects by 2020, after a similar argument made by New York City was successful.

But the state health agency, which was given authority on this matter in 2009, as delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, isn't buying that argument.

A letter from Dave Leland, manager of the state Drinking Water Program, criticized the city, saying 'the proposed timing appears to reflect a suspension of effort to comply with the mandated regulation, rather than continuing, steady progress toward regulatory compliance.'