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$500 million plant not likely to have large financial effect on customers like the city of Sandy

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Planning will soon begin to build a filtration plant to remove cryptosporidium from Bull Run water.The city of Sandy doesn't yet know what the ramifications would be on local water users until the Portland Water Bureau supplies more specifics on a proposed $500 million filtration plant to address the discovery of cryptosporidium in the Bull Run water source.

"We're a pretty small customer of Portland," Sandy Public Works Director Mike Walker noted. "So we have a pretty attractive wholesale rate with them right now. Financially there might not be that big of an impact. (But) it's hard to tell what those costs will be."

Many Portland residents have expressed concerns about how this would affect their water rates. An article by Portland Tribune reporter Jim Redden reported that rates could rise by $18.34 between now and 2030.

As a customer of the bureau, Walker said the city does have a vested interest in how it proceeds. But without a final plan in hand, "it's hard to say" how Sandy will need to react if the bureau does build a new facility.

Sandy only relies on the bureau for a minimal amount of its water, with sources such as Alder Creek and Browned Springs to pick up the slack. In February and March, the city was able to completely fulfill water needs with its local sources.

In the summer, Walker said, only about one third of Sandy's water comes from Bull Run, and that only rises to about one half in the winter.

"Until they know what they're going to do and where, we don't really know the impact it could have on rates," Walker explained.

He added that because of its own resources, Sandy is a unique customer to begin with, so planning ahead is in some ways more complex.

"What Portland is trying to build we've had since 1977," he added.

The city of Sandy is already the proud longtime owner of its own filtration plant, meaning the need to even test for parasites like cryptosporidium is eliminated.

"We might continue to buy untreated water and treat it ourselves," Walker speculated. The only other option being to buy treated water from Portland. Either option would cost Sandy money, but a price tag remains undetermined.

Walker explained that because of the city's budgeting practices, he expects that "in 10 years, our existing water debt will be paid down," and said that "we're trying to shift the burden of improvements from the rates to those new developers, (which) will help over time."

So, whether rates charged by the bureau increase or not, Sandy could come out fairly unscathed.

"We will be a customer of Portland regardless," Walker concluded. "It's just whether we take our treated water or their treated water."

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