Water is essential for our brains and bodies to function properly and, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, it’s essential for helping prevent communicable diseases. That’s why doctors, public health officials, and city leaders are champions for our efforts to make our water supply even safer.
The Bull Run Treatment Projects underway are two significant improvements we’re making to further support and protect the health of everyone in our community: Improved Corrosion Control Treatment and Filtration. These projects are especially important to people with vulnerable immune systems including children, the elderly, and people who are pregnant or medically fragile.
Dr. Apurva K. Patel is an Ophthalmologist and a father of two, who gained his appreciation for water infrastructure as a medical student volunteering in India. “As an idealistic medical student, I went to India, thinking I could help people. I realized there, to really help a lot of people you need the structural things - the clean water, the nutrition. There’s a connection between these structural things in our society and individual people’s health.”
Improved Corrosion Control
We are fortunate that we have never used lead pipes in our distribution system, but lead from home and building plumbing can leach into water. To protect public health, we’re moving forward to construct a treatment facility that will reduce the amount of lead at the tap. These improved treatment facilities will be online by April 2022, as required to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead and Copper Rule. Multnomah County Health Officer and family doctor Dr. Jennifer Vines says, “Anytime we can seize the opportunity to lower lead in our environment it’s a public health win. There is no safe level. Even small amounts can affect children’s behavior and ability to learn.”
The Filtration Project will enable us to remove the disease-causing microorganism Cryptosporidium and other potential contaminants from Bull Run drinking water. “The new filtration facility is going to reduce the number of organics in the water, and therefore the disinfection byproducts. That’s going to have significant public health impacts,” says Yone Akagi, Portland Water Bureau Water Quality Manager.
The new filtration facility is in the design phase and will be operational in 2027. To guide the design of our new filtration facility, we are carefully evaluating what solutions work best for our Bull Run water supply and have engaged public health and drinking water treatment experts to offer advice during the planning and design process.
As with the Improved Corrosion Control Project, the Filtration Project will take advantage of proven water treatment methods known to save lives and improve the health of people across the globe. The facility will only use chemicals certified as safe for drinking water use by NSF International, which sets the public health standards and certification standards. As Dr. Mary McKenzie, Pulmonologist, and mother of two knows, “You see where there’s been interruptions to the water system with other emergencies like Katrina or Puerto Rico when there was the big hurricane. Waterborne illness is terrible. It kills people.”
“There are about a million people who drink Bull Run water. We need to make sure there is safe and plentiful water for generations to come,“ says Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “This is an investment in our future. It’s an investment in public health.”