Dec 13, 2007

City of Portland Petitions for Variance from EPA

A court recently rejected the city’s plea to avoid new treatment rules

Portland’s city engineers have begun studying water treatment options to rid city water of Cryptosporidium after a court recently rejected the city’s plea to avoid federal regulations, according to the The Oregonian.

The city also plans to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a variance to the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“That's the next step,” said Commissioner Randy Leonard, who oversees the Water Bureau, told The Oregonian. “We're interested in pursuing a variance. We understand the bar is very high.”

In January, EPA officials will meet Water Bureau leaders to discuss what evidence Portland would have to collect to make a strong case for a variance.

One reason the city is hoping for a variance from EPA rules is that it could reportedly cost from $100 million to more than $350 million to contain and add treatment for Portland’s drinking water.

Federal law says cities must treat water to get rid of Cryptosporidium, a virus that can severely weaken people’s immune systems. The law also makes cities cover all reservoirs or treat water after it leaves uncovered reservoirs. Portland has five open reservoirs at Mount Tabor and Washington Park, according to The Oregonian.