Bull Run Treatment Projects Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently asked questions for the Bull Run Treatment Projects.
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In April 2022, we completed construction of Improved Corrosion Control Treatment at our Lusted Hill facility to help reduce the risk of lead at customers' taps. We're currently designing the Bull Run Filtration Project with construction of the new water filtration facility and related pipelines expected to start mid-2023. We'll continue to update these FAQs as the projects progress and more information becomes available.


Regulations

Why is the filtration facility needed? 

The water filtration facility is needed to comply with federal and state drinking water regulations and remove the microorganism Cryptosporidium from our water supply. The filtration facility will also help us reduce potential impacts to our water supply from wildfires, landslides, and other natural disasters. 

Is Cryptosporidium really a health risk?

The Environmental Protection Agency considers Cryptosporidium to be a health risk and implemented a series of regulations called the Surface Water Treatment Rules to reduce illnesses caused by Cryptosporidium and other pathogens in drinking water. In January 2017, we began detecting Cryptosporidium in the Bull Run supply that, while at low levels, exceeded what is allowable by these drinking water regulations.  

Has every chance for a waiver to the treatment requirement been exhausted?

We've exhausted every chance for a waiver. In December 2018, the Oregon Health Authority revoked our variance from the requirements to treat for Cryptosporidium. The variance was initially granted in 2012 based on the results of a year-long intensive sampling for Cryptosporidium, and the limited sources and low occurrence of Cryptosporidium in the Bull Run supply at that time. The regular detections of Cryptosporidium since 2017 have exceeded allowable levels, and we must treat our water. We're required to have the filtration facility online by September 30, 2027, as part of our compliance agreement with the Oregon Health Authority.

Can’t customers just filter their own water at home?

Home filters do not meet the regulatory compliance responsibilities directed by federal and state regulators. As a public water provider, we're required to protect public health by providing drinking water that meets federal and state drinking water regulations.   

Could Portland switch to its second source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, rather than build a new filtration facility?

The Columbia South Shore Well Field doesn't have sufficient capacity to meet the needs of Portland and our wholesale customers without the Bull Run supply. The well field was developed to augment the Bull Run supply during hot dry summers and to serve as a backup supply when higher turbidity (sediment suspended in water) caused by winter storms can impact the Bull Run supply. It's important to maintain both the Bull Run supply and the well field for our overall system reliability.

Why use filtration? Why not ultraviolet treatment?

The Portland City Council selected filtration treatment for the multiple benefits it provides. Granular media filtration is a proven technology used at almost all of the large filtration facilities in North America. Granular media filtration provides excellent water quality, is flexible in adapting to different water conditions and new requirements, and fits on the filtration facility site with room to meet future needs.

What is the land use process? 

The primary land use process will be Multnomah County’s Type III Conditional Use Review process for the filtration facility site. This includes submitting a land use application midway through the design process. The land use review process is overseen by a hearings officer, an independent decision-maker hired by the County. We'll also seek design review and other Multnomah County and Clackamas County land use permits for the filtration facility and associated pipelines.

What is the zoning for the future water filtration facility site?

The facility site is located in Multnomah County and is zoned Multiple Use Agriculture–20 (MUA-20). In the MUA-20 zone, community services, like the Bull Run Filtration Project, are allowed as a conditional use.

Location

Why was this site chosen over other options? What other options were considered?

We purchased the site near SE Carpenter Lane in 1975 to use for future water system facilities. We selected the site for the filtration facility in 2018 because it was the only property that met all facility siting criteria. These criteria included considerations related to maximizing gravity flow, connecting to existing and future pipelines, having sufficient space and suitable geologic conditions for construction, and meeting the compliance schedule. 

We evaluated six potential sites:

  • City-owned property near Carpenter Lane
  • Lusted Hill (with expansion)
  • Headworks
  • Larson’s Ranch
  • Powell Butte
  • Roslyn Lake

An analysis of the site selection can be found in the Bull Run Filtration Project Preferred Alternatives Report and a variety of presentations in the Document Library

How did the Water Bureau incorporate community input in the facility location?

We selected the site as part of the pre-planning phase of the project, which included several opportunities for community input. Community input and notification during the pre-planning phase included:

  • Stakeholder interviews and an online survey: we used input from more than 1,700 respondents to identify community values. We used these community values to evaluate and identify preferred options for the delivery method, facility capacity, facility location, and filtration technology.
  • Notification letters: we sent immediate site neighbors letters notifying them of investigations (geotechnical, environmental, and cultural resources) at the site. The letters noted the property was being considered as a site for a future filtration facility. 
  • Portland City Council presentation: we presented preferred alternatives at a Portland City Council work session in August 2018
  • Community Forum: we shared preferred alternatives at a Community Forum in November 2018. The forum included an opportunity to discuss options with our Commissioner and staff, including an open house, a group question and answer session, and opportunity to submit written questions and input.

Based on both technical analyses and community input, the Portland City Council authorized selection of the preferred delivery method, facility capacity, facility location, and filtration technology in December 2018.

How will the project impact property values?

There are many variables that can impact property values, including the changing economy. We don't expect the filtration facility will impact property values long term. However, we will evaluate this topic further as design progresses.

Facility Size and Appearance

How will this filtration facility fit within the character of the area?

We're committed to designing a filtration facility that is consistent with the character of the area. We'll seek input and work with site neighbors through the Good Neighbor Agreement process to help identify design considerations that reduce visual impacts and respect the rural nature of the site. We welcome public comment and will continue to share information as design develops.

How large is the filtration facility footprint?

Through the preliminary design process, we identified an ‘optimal build area’ that uses roughly 50 acres of the 95-acre site. This general footprint for the future facility accommodates site layout elements like access roads, setbacks, environmental buffers, view buffers, and potential for the unused eastern portion of the site to be used in the future for community benefits such as continued agricultural uses.

Aerial image overlaid with a modeled image showing a grouping of white rectangles in the left center of a larger property .
Conceptual site layout of the filtration facility.
What is the height of the filtration facility and will it block neighbors’ views of Mount Hood?

We're designing the facility to have a low-profile where operationally feasible. The height of the buildings is constrained by code limits (generally 35 feet with some exceptions). We'll continue to model and test view lines as design progresses. 

What type of landscaping is planned? 

We're planning landscaping around the site edges to help buffer and screen views of the facility from neighboring properties. Using community input, we've identified a preference for native forest with plant understory and meadow with stands of native trees to help buffer the site. 

What will the entry look like?

We're planning to screen the main entrance to the filtration facility with landscaping and by setting the entry gate back approximately 150 feet from the perimeter.

Graphic showing treelined roadway with fenced gate in the distance.
View of facility main entry seen from SE Carpenter Lane.
Will there be fencing?

A water filtration facility is considered critical infrastructure and is required to be secure by the Office of Homeland Security. As part of the design process, we're evaluating and further refining options for securing process areas. To lessen the visual impact of potential fences or walls, options may include creating berms that mimic the natural landforms and hide fences or walls. 

What is the stormwater management strategy for the facility site?

We're incorporating various stormwater management strategies into the design, including using stormwater swales and basins throughout the site to manage runoff during both normal and large storm events. As design progresses, our team is considering input from Johnson Creek Watershed Council and other site neighbors and has made several related commitments through our Good Neighbor Agreement.

Pipelines

What pipelines are planned?

We're planning new pipelines in eastern Multnomah County to connect the water filtration facility to our existing system. These pipelines will be designed to current seismic standards and will allow for an aging segment of existing pipeline to be retired. We're also planning a small-diameter local distribution main that will serve our current customers in the area and four water districts. 

What are the pipeline routes?

We identified preferred routes for new pipelines in eastern Multnomah County that make use of public rights-of-way where possible and will serve as a guide for pipeline design. We'll continue to reach out to property owners along the routes to share more information as design moves forward.

Map showing the filtration facility site and pipe routes just west of the Sandy River near the county line.
Bull Run Treatment Projects map showing planned routes for new pipelines.
How were the pipeline routes selected?

The preferred routes were identified using the results of two years of engineering and field work and community outreach. Our route selection criteria included consideration of resilience/reliability, capacity, constructability, permitting, environmental and community impacts, and ratepayer costs.

What will typical pipeline construction look like?

The pipeline construction will be completed in segments. We're planning to install most of the new pipeline using open cut trenching. We'll use trenchless methods (tunneling) for some pipe segments where creeks or other features are nearby. Road surfaces and property along the routes will be restored following construction completion. We’ll have more details to share on construction activities and timing once design is complete.

Four sequential photos showing heavy equipment being used to install pipelines.
Typical open cut pipeline construction starts with excavation, then pipelaying, backfilling, and completion.
How big and how deep will the pipelines be? What will happen to the dirt during construction?

The new pipelines bringing water to and from the facility will be roughly 42 to 72 inches in diameter and installed generally with 5 to 12 feet of cover. We'll restore property along the pipeline routes following construction. This includes excavated soil, which will be used as backfill or removed. 

Will the pipelines require easements or property acquisition?

The pipeline routes use public rights-of-way where possible. We are actively working with property owners where preliminary planning has identified need for new or modified easements. As design progresses, we will continue to evaluate potential additional easement and property acquisition needs along the selected pipeline routes. 

Will property owners have access to the easement area during construction? 

Keeping the community and workers safe during construction is a top priority. We anticipate installing temporary safety fencing around active work areas where pipeline construction is occurring in our easements on private property. We will maintain property owner and emergency traffic access throughout construction.

Will property owners be allowed to use the easement land after construction? 

The allowable uses are determined by the terms outlined in individual easement agreements. In most cases, property owners will be allowed similar uses of the land once the pipeline is installed.

What will property owners with easements see after pipeline construction? 

There will be buried accessways, valve boxes, and other small features spaced along the pipeline routes that will be needed for operations and maintenance in the future. These will be similar in function and appearance to our existing water infrastructure in the project area.   

Traffic

How will the filtration facility site be accessed? 

The existing SE Carpenter Lane access (east of Cottrell) to the City-owned site is planned as the primary access during ongoing facility operation. We're also planning a secondary site access from SE Bluff Road that would be less frequently used during facility operation.

How was the access determined?

Through the design process, we evaluated and sought community input on multiple site access alternatives. Based on current knowledge and discussions with Multnomah County, we determined SE Carpenter Lane is the viable north access to the facility site due to the County’s Road Rules. This is because SE Carpenter Lane is a lower classification roadway that already serves the site.

How much traffic will be generated during construction and operation? How will traffic impacts be mitigated?

We'll conduct traffic impact analyses to identify safety or capacity issues and roadway improvement needs for construction and ongoing operation of the filtration facility. We don't expect ongoing operation to have appreciable traffic impacts. For construction, early estimates from the project pre-planning efforts suggested 116,000 total truck trips over the span of four to five years. As design progresses, we'll review and refine these estimates and look at sequencing construction activities to help reduce disruption to local roads.

We'll develop construction traffic control plans that focus on traffic safety and minimizing disruption for the local community. We'll also identify and implement appropriate traffic control measures prior to construction. Typical traffic control measures include identifying flagging needs, detour routes, haul routes, and provision for local and emergency access.

Will the roads be improved before, during, or after construction?

We'll be working with Multnomah County and Clackamas County to understand maintenance and restoration needs for local roads used to access the facility site during construction. We also plan to monitor road conditions before and during construction and will take corrective action as needed in coordination with the counties.

What measures are being taken to account for safety of children and cyclists given the volume and type of traffic anticipated?

We're committed to the safety of the community. We'll develop traffic safety measures during design using community input to fully understand the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

Are traffic studies available?

We'll prepare traffic studies as part of the project design and permitting process. A preliminary traffic impact analysis completed for the operational phase of the facility is included in the Project Definition Report (March 2020). The study found that facility operation will not have appreciable traffic impacts. 

Operations

Will the facility have off-site noise impacts? Can noisy equipment be housed?

We'll use noise-limiting design measures for pumps, equipment, and facility processes to help reduce potential off-site sound impacts and meet applicable local ordinances. We'll also leverage landforms and landscaping where possible to help block sounds. 

What lighting is planned? Will the filtration facility have stadium lighting?

The water filtration facility will not have stadium lighting. We'll use design best practices to help shield facility lighting at the source and minimize nighttime impacts to neighboring properties and wildlife. This includes using fully shielded fixtures to direct light downward and limiting exterior lighting to areas needed for operational safety and facility security. 

Will there be odors?

No odors are foreseen in normal operation of a drinking water filtration facility.

What is the planned staffing at the facility?

We're still evaluating staffing needs but anticipate about 25 facility personnel in total, including administrative, engineering, operations, and maintenance staff. The facility will operate 24/7 and the number of staff working on site will vary depending on the time of day, with fewer staff on site at night.

Can deliveries be limited to weekday hours? 

We'll specify restrictions on allowable delivery times and days in future vendor contracts. Weekday deliveries are a standard practice, but evening or weekend deliveries may be needed on occasion. For example, if weather prevents a regularly scheduled delivery, that delivery may need to happen on the weekend.

Will the facility be open to the public? What can we expect from facility tours?

Once the filtration facility is operating, we anticipate offering guided educational facility tours by scheduled appointment for school children and other interested community members. Similar to the current Bull Run Watershed tours that travel through the project area, we anticipate the number and frequency of educational tours will vary throughout the school year.

Cultural and Natural Resources

Will the filtration facility discharge to the Sandy River? If not, what will be done with the wastewater?

No, the filtration facility will not discharge to the Sandy River under normal operation. Non-potable water left over from the treatment process will be recycled on site.

How will solid waste be disposed?

Treating drinking water generates a small amount of silts, clays, and other settleable or filterable materials. During design, we'll evaluate potential beneficial uses for these silts and clays, such as providing daily cover for a landfill.

Will construction impact the groundwater aquifers?

We don't anticipate that construction will impact groundwater aquifers.

What is the geology around the site?

We've been working to gather data about the local geology through ongoing field investigations and geotechnical borings. Preliminary planning work is described in the Project Definition Report (March 2020)

How will this project affect elk and other wildlife? 

We'll evaluate and mitigate potential impacts to wildlife consistent with applicable state and federal permitting processes. In general, the filtration facility site and pipelines are located outside of big game winter habitat areas. This will be verified during the design process.

Will there be an archaeological investigation of the filtration facility site? What will happen if there are discoveries?

We'll complete an archaeological investigation of both the filtration facility site and potential pipeline alignments. If there are discoveries, we'll address those as required by state and federal regulations. Preliminary assessments summarized in the Project Definition Report (March 2020) did not result in discovery of archaeological resources at the facility site.

Reliability/Resilience 

How will the project improve resilience?

We're prioritizing improvements to the water system backbone to address high-risk infrastructure and increase overall system resilience. The new water filtration facility and pipelines will be designed and constructed to withstand an earthquake and will help us meet Oregon Resilience Plan goals, such as the ability to restore service within 24 hours of a major event. 

The new facility will also help us address turbidity and other potential impacts to the water supply that could result from a fire, landslide, or other natural disaster.

Will the filtration facility use gravity flow and why is that important?

The filtration facility will use gravity flow. This means our water will flow from the Bull Run Watershed to Portland without reliance on electrical and mechanical systems for pumping. We selected the filtration facility site specifically to maintain gravity flow through the facility. In addition to higher reliability, gravity flow reduces construction and operating costs while minimizing the system’s carbon footprint.

Will the facility have sustainability features? 

We're incorporating sustainability into the facility design in a variety of ways, including planning use of low-carbon concrete for process basins and structures, targeting net-zero energy use for the Administration Building, working to identify sustainably sourced construction wood products, and pursuing third-party Envision certification of the water filtration facility.  

Safety

What new treatment chemicals will be used? Are you planning to use chlorine or bleach?

We're identifying specific chemicals that work best with the Bull Run supply using a mini filtration facility called a pilot plant. We'll only use chemicals in the treatment process that are certified as safe for use in drinking water applications by NSF International, which sets public health standards and certification programs. The chemicals we're evaluating are in common use at water treatment facilities across the United States. We anticipate using liquid sodium hypochlorite, similar to household bleach, for disinfection. We'll make decisions on all chemicals during project design.

Will there be chemical residuals?

Water treatment uses chemicals (coagulants and polymers) to help remove suspended sediment, disease-causing pathogens, and other contaminants from drinking water. These chemicals are almost completely removed during the sedimentation and filtration steps of the water treatment process. The chemicals, as well as contaminants removed from the water, are then concentrated into a solid with a consistency similar to wet earth that can be used for landfill daily cover or other beneficial use. 

Some chemicals are added and remain in the treated water to make it less corrosive to piping. We currently add chlorine and ammonia to our water supply for disinfection and to provide a protective disinfectant residual in our distribution system. All chemicals used to treat our water will meet rigorous safety standards.

What are polymers?

Polymers are long-chain organic molecules that help to capture organics and particles, including disease-causing pathogens, so they can be removed from the water. The polymers are also removed from the water during the sedimentation and filtration steps of the water treatment process.

How will safety be addressed for storage and transportation of chemicals?

Safety of both the public and our staff is a top priority. The water filtration facility will meet rigorous federal and state safety standards for chemical storage and transportation that are designed to protect workers and the public. For chemicals stored on site, regulations require secondary containment, such as a basin around a storage tank, to capture any chemical if the tank leaks.  

Is there a plan for catastrophic events/evacuation?

We'll develop risk management and emergency action plans for the water filtration facility. The safety of the community and our staff is of paramount importance, and we follow industry best practices for preparing for potential emergency situations. Additionally, as part of the design process, we're evaluating inherently safer technologies that minimize risk to the public and facility staff.

Cost

What is the estimated cost of the Bull Run Treatment Projects? 

The total Bull Run Treatment Program funding is for $1.48 billion and includes the planned water filtration facility, related pipelines, and recently completed corrosion control treatment facility. This amount is the basis for the current projections of water bill impacts from the projects.

Learn about Bull Run Treatment financing and affordability 

Who will pay for this project? How will Water Bureau customers’ rates be affected?

These investments in the future of our drinking water will be funded through customer rates. To help maintain water rate affordability, we secured a low-interest federal loan that allows us to smooth water bill impacts from the Bull Run Treatment Projects over time. Borrowed money will be repaid over many years so more future ratepayers who are getting the benefits of the projects help share in the costs.

We're committed to actively managing costs throughout the life of the project and seeking opportunities for other project funding. Throughout, we'll continue to provide support through our financial assistance program for income-qualified customers.

Does the Water Bureau have federal funding for the project?

We secured a long-term, low-interest Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help build the Bull Run Treatment Projects. The WIFIA loan will significantly lower the cost of investment for our ratepayers and provide at least $247 million of debt-service savings over the loan term.  

Learn about WIFIA benefits 

Does the Water Bureau have a low-income program?

We offer a variety of financial assistance programs to be responsive to community needs, including bill discounts and crisis vouchers to qualifying low-income customers. 

Learn about Portland’s Financial Assistance Programs 

Wholesale Customers

How will Pleasant Home Water District and its customers be affected? Will site neighbors’ homes be served?

Pleasant Home Water District is one of our wholesale customers. The District’s customers will get drinking water from the new filtration facility—through Pleasant Home Water District—by September 30, 2027, when the facility is operational.

Construction of the water filtration facility will not change the District's service area. Neighbors of the facility who are not currently served by the District will not be required to connect to their system. If neighbors with wells would like to be served by the filtration facility, we suggest contacting the District to find out if and how you can connect to the District’s system.

Will the City of Sandy receive water from the filtration facility?

The City of Sandy is one of our wholesale customers. The City will have the opportunity to get drinking water from the new filtration facility by September 30, 2027.

How will the projects change my water? What will I notice?

These projects will provide more consistent water quality that is less affected by seasonal variations in our Bull Run supply. We anticipate most customers will not notice any changes to the taste of Bull Run water with the improved treatment systems.

Communication

How will the community be kept informed?

An almost 10-year project provides opportunity for many different types of community engagement—both in-person and online. We're committed to keeping our customers and community members informed and involved in all phases of the project with open houses and events, mailings, email, website updates, door hangers, and other ways to stay up to date. Our project e-news and events calendar have the latest information. 

Will the community have input on facility design and operation?

Using input from neighbors, we developed a Good Neighbor Agreement that documents our commitments to site neighbors through design, construction, and ongoing operations of the water filtration facility. These commitments are posted to our website and have been shared with our project team to inform their work. We'll continue to share information about project progress and opportunities for feedback in our project e-news

Are you engaging regional stakeholders and interest groups?

We're sharing information and gathering input from a diverse group of community stakeholders, including schools, community associations, local governments, tribes, watershed councils, other environmental groups, and water suppliers. We'll continue these conversations throughout the life of the project. Stakeholder groups interested in more information can contact the project team at bullrunprojects@portlandoregon.gov.

Construction

How long will construction take?

We expect construction of the water filtration facility to take four to five years and construction of the pipelines to take about three years. Construction is expected to start mid-2023 and is required to be substantially complete by September 30, 2027. We'll have more details to share about construction activities and the schedule after we complete the designs.

What types of impacts will there be during filtration facility and pipeline construction? What is being done to limit those impacts?

We're committed to limiting construction impacts on site neighbors. Our construction management plan will include ways to minimize impacts from traffic, noise, dust, and other construction concerns.  

Contact

Bull Run Treatment Projects

Bonita Oswald, Project Communications Coordinator

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