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Bull Run Treatment Projects Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently asked questions for the Bull Run Treatment Projects.
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We are currently designing the Bull Run Filtration Project with construction of the new filtration facility and pipelines expected to start in 2023. We are also building Improved Corrosion Control Treatment at our Lusted Hill facility. We will continue to update these FAQs as the projects progress and more information becomes available.


Regulations

Why is the filtration facility needed? 

The 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 have 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 are 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 state and federal regulators. As a public water provider, we are required to protect public health by providing drinking water that meets state and federal 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 does not 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 is 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 a pre-application conference that is open to the public and a land use application submittal that occurs 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 will also seek design review and other Multnomah County and Clackamas County land use permits for the filtration facility and associated pipelines.

Location

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

We purchased the site near 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 PowerPoint presentations available on the project website 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 do not 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 are committed to designing a filtration facility that is consistent with the character of the area. We will 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?

We have not yet determined the size and configuration of the filtration facility footprint on the 95-acre site. Based on conceptual planning work, we expect the facility may use roughly 40 to 60 acres of the site. We will develop these elements as design progresses. 

What is the height of the filtration facility and will it block neighbors’ views of Mount Hood?

We will determine the height of the facility during the design phase of the project. We understand that preserving existing views is important to site neighbors. During design, we will use 3D photo simulations to model view lines and will share these with site neighbors as part of our project outreach. 

Will the facility be landscaped?

Landscaping options for the facility will be part of the design phase of the project. The nature of the landscaping buffer will be in keeping with the character of the area. As design progresses, our team is considering input from neighbors and has made several related commitments through our Good Neighbor Agreement.

Will there be fencing?

A filtration facility is considered critical infrastructure and is required to be secure by the Office of Homeland Security. During design, we will evaluate and further refine 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. 

Are there going to be settling ponds? How will those be constructed? Will they be lined?

Settling ponds will be used to temporarily hold water containing solids left over from the treatment process. We will develop construction details, such as use of liners, during the design process.

Pipelines

How many pipelines will there be? How large and how deep will the pipelines be?

There will be two pipelines that carry water to and from the facility. Having two pipelines will provide system reliability by allowing us to conduct maintenance or repair without disrupting our water service. Pipes will be roughly 42 to 72 inches in diameter and installed generally with 5 to 12 feet of cover. We will determine the depth and construction methods for the pipelines during design.

What are the pipeline routes?

In October 2020, we identified preferred routes for new pipelines in eastern Multnomah County and Clackamas County to connect the future filtration facility to our existing water system. These routes make use of existing easements and public rights-of-way where possible and will serve as a guide for pipeline design. We will continue to reach out to property owners along the routes to share more information as design moves forward.

Map with colored lines indicating the location of pipeline routes in relation to the filtration facility site.
Preferred pipe routes identified in Oct. 2020 for the Bull Run Filtration Project.
  • Two ‘raw water’ pipes will carry water to the filtration facility. One of these raw water pipes will begin at our Hudson Road Intertie and follow our existing easement northwest, then travel west to the facility site in a tunnel. The second ‘raw water’ pipe will start at a new North Intertie on SE Lusted Road and travel west to the filtration facility site joining the first pipe at the tunnel.
  • Two ‘finished water’ pipes will carry treated water from the filtration facility to the existing system. One of these finished water pipes will head north from the filtration facility site, then west along SE Dodge Park Boulevard, cutting north to SE Lusted Road where it will travel west to the intersection with SE Altman Road (with possible extension to SE Pipeline Road). The second finished water pipe will head north from the filtration facility site, then west along SE Dodge Park Boulevard until SE Altman Road where it will head north until the intersection with SE Oxbow Drive.
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 happen to the dirt during pipeline construction?

We will 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 existing easements and 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 be allowed to use the easement land? 

The allowable uses are determined by the terms outlined in individual easement agreements. In most cases, it won’t be necessary to change the existing easement terms, so property owners will be allowed the same uses of the land once the pipeline is installed.

Traffic

How will the filtration facility site be accessed? Which existing roads will be used and how will neighbor impacts and roadway condition be addressed?

We are continuing to evaluate specific access requirements, looking at locations for access from both the north and south of the filtration facility site. The route selection will occur during the project design phase and will include assessment of traffic safety and capacity. We will share more information as that work progresses. 

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

We will conduct traffic impact analyses to identify safety or capacity issues and roadway improvement needs for construction and ongoing operation of the filtration facility. We do not 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. We will continue to review and refine these estimates as design progresses. 

We will develop construction traffic control plans that focus on traffic safety and minimizing impacts on the local community. We will also identify and implement appropriate traffic control measures. Typical traffic control measures include prescribing dedicated haul routes and construction speed limits.

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

We will maintain the condition of roads used to access the filtration facility site during construction. Local roads used during construction will be restored to their pre-existing condition or better.

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

We are committed to the safety of the community. We will 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 will 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?

The filtration facility design and operation will include noise limiting measures required to meet local ordinances. For example, a number of facility processes will be located within buildings to address potential off-site noise impacts.

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

The filtration facility will not have stadium lighting. The facility will be designed to meet applicable county code requirements and operational needs. The facility design will include techniques to minimize potential off-site light impacts, such as:

  • Light Shielding: directing light downwards, or using earthen berms or other landscape features so light is screened from neighboring properties.
  • Light Levels: using separate modes of lighting for regular operation and for safety and emergency scenarios.
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 are 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 will 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 to school kids and other community members. Similar to current tours of the Bull Run Watershed, the number and frequency of facility tours is likely to vary throughout the year based on interest.

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 will evaluate potential beneficial uses for these silts and clays, such as providing daily cover for a landfill.

Will construction impact the groundwater aquifers?

We do not anticipate that construction will impact groundwater aquifers.

What is the geology around the site?

We have 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 benefit the watershed overall?

The Bull Run Filtration Project will not directly affect the watershed. More information about our ongoing stewardship of the Bull Run Watershed is available on our website.

How will this project affect elk and other wildlife? 

We will 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 will complete an archaeological investigation of both the filtration facility site and potential pipeline alignments. If there are discoveries, we will 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 are prioritizing improvements to the water system backbone to address high-risk infrastructure and increase overall system resilience. The new 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.

Safety

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

We are identifying specific chemicals that work best with the Bull Run supply using a mini filtration facility called a pilot plant. We will 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 are 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 will 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 filtration facility will meet rigorous state and federal 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 will develop risk management and emergency action plans for the 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 will be evaluating inherently safer technologies that minimize risk to the public and facility staff.

Cost

What is the estimated cost of the Filtration project?

The Portland City Council approved a resolution in November 2019 that provided a set of priority values and expectations to guide the project. The option that will meet the Council’s priority values has an estimated cost of $820 million in 2019 dollars with an accuracy range of -30 percent to +50 percent. As part of design, we will be further evaluating the cost and exploring a full range of needs that will inform the estimate. Project cost estimates will continue to improve as design progresses.

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 are committed to actively managing costs throughout the life of the project and continue to seek opportunities for other project funding. Throughout, we will 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.  

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. 

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 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 neighbors be kept informed?

An almost 10-year project provides the opportunity for many different types of engagement—both in-person and online. We are committed to keeping our neighbors 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 engaged. Our events calendar has 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 filtration facility. These commitments are posted to our website and have been shared with our project team to inform their work. We will 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 are 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 will 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 filtration facility to take four to five years and construction of the pipelines to take about three years. Construction is expected to start in 2023 and is required to be complete by September 30, 2027. We will 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 are 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.