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Council seeks delay for controversial reservoir projects

EPA already considering a similar New York request

Portland's City Council will consider Wednesday morning asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to extend the deadline to complete a number of projects related to replacing Portland's open reservoirs.

The request is one more twist in a long and confusing story that originally had the council agreeing to replace the reservoirs with new underground tanks in the foreseeable future, and then asking for the delay after the EPA suggested it will offer New York City one in a similar situation.


• Click here to read the City Council resolution on the open reservoir issue.


The EPA had previous said all open reservoirs must be covered or replaced under the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, or LT2 for short. The EPA agreed to the possible New York City delay under pressure from New York U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

'Portland and other systems should receive the same opportunity as New York City to benefit from the EPA's review of the LT2 rule and any alternative compliance options that become available,' according to a resolution that will be considered by the council.

The change comes around the same time as the city has asked to be excused from other EPA requirement to treat Bull Run water for cryptosporidium, a potentially deadly parasite. The city asked for a waiver after extensive test failed to find any sign of the parasite. But shortly after making the request, a small number of signs were found in some water samples. The request is still pending.

All of the projects required to comply with the EPA requirements will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Water customers will pay for them through increased rates to support bonds. Some critics have called the projects unnecessary and the proposed rate increases unsustainable.

The resolution to be considered by the council proposes the following delays: the completion of the new Kelley Butte Reservoir from Dec. 31, 2012, to June 30, 2020; the completion date of the Mt. Tabor Project from Dec. 31, 2015, to June 30, 2012; and the completion of he Washington Park Project from Dec. 31, 2020, to June 30, 2025.