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Portland granted Bull Run treatment variance

City not required to build expensive treatment plant at reservoir

The Portland Water Bureau does not have to build a $70 million treatment plant at the Bull Run reservoir after all.

On Wednesday the Oregon Health Authority's Public Health Division granted a variance to the requirement that the city treat Bull Run water for Cryptosporidium, a potentially deadly parasite.

The final order granting the variance to the federal and state requirement for treatment contains conditions to provide safeguards to protect the health of those being served by unfiltered Bull Run water.

'Our public health team carefully considered all comments received and thoroughly examined the science and the specifics of conditions at Bull Run. Although Cryptosporidium can present a serious health threat, at this time, with the protective conditions we have itemized in the Final Order, treating Bull Run source water for Cryptosporidium is not necessary to protect the public's health. Therefore we have issued the variance requested by the City of Portland,' said Administrator Gail Shibley, J.D., Oregon Public Health Division, Office of Environmental Public Health.

In addition to ongoing watershed protections, water monitoring, inspections, reporting and notification requirements, the variance may be revoked at any time if Public Health Division experts reasonably believe that lack of treatment poses an unreasonable threat to the public's health.

'This is a good example of why it's important that Oregon have a strong Drinking Water Program. Because of this program at the state we are able to enforce federal regulations that ensure safe drinking water for Oregon, but also have the flexibility to tailor enforcement to meet the specific conditions in our state,' said Mel Kohn, M.D., M.P.H., director of Oregon Public Health Division. 'The EPA allows Oregon some flexibility because they know we have the capacity to interpret and apply these regulations safely and responsibly.'

The division held several public hearings on the issue. After the first public comment period closed Jan. 3, city reported that Cryptosporidium was detected in a single sample taken at the Bull Run intake Dec. 30, 2011. Water samples collected elsewhere in the Bull Run watershed also showed the presence of Cryptospordium in December and January.

Cryptosporidium would be expected to be found among animals in the Bull Run watershed, and the low level found at the intake was not interpreted as a sign of serious public health risk by the division. Ultimately, the weight of the present scientific evidence led to the decision to grant the variance.

A copy of the Final Order to grant a variance can be found at: http://public.health.oregon.gov/HealthyEnvironments/DrinkingWater/Pages/BullRunVarianceRequest.aspx .