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Portland returning to using and selling water from Bull Run supply

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Wholesale customers of Portland water in Washington County include the Tualatin Valley Water District and City of Tualatin.

FILE - The Bull Run Reservoir is the primary source of drinking water for much of the Portland area. After several water samples indicated low levels of the parasite cryptosporidium, the Portland Water Bureau temporarily switched over to drawing from groundwater wells, but it announced this week it will resume using Bull Run water on Wednesday.The Portland Water Bureau, which provides water to hundreds of thousands of customers in Washington County as a wholesale seller, expects to return to the Bull Run Reservoir as its primary water source on Wednesday, it announced Tuesday morning.

Portland switched over to drawing water from its groundwater wells along the Columbia River on Feb. 13 after detecting the potentially deadly parasite cryptosporidium in multiple water samples from the Bull Run supply. Crypto, as the parasite is commonly called, has been found 13 times in Bull Run water since the beginning of the year. The most recent finding was in a sample drawn last Wednesday, March 8.

Water and public health officials insist the risk of anyone getting sick from drinking Bull Run water is extremely unlikely, although they advise people with compromised immune systems to consult with their doctors.

"Our top priority is to protect public health," Water Bureau Administrator Mike Stuhr said when announcing the decision. "The evidence and data collected, along with input from our partners with the Multnomah County Health Department and regulators at the Oregon Health Authority, indicates the risk remains low."

Portland has agreements with many regional water districts and cities to sell water from its supply, which is then provided to those districts and cities' customers. Those customers include the City of Tualatin, as well as the Lake Grove, Raleigh, Tualatin Valley, Valley View and West Slope water districts, among others.

Additional positive findings of crypto are likely, the Water Bureau concedes. But it said in its announcement Tuesday it has "confidence" in its decision to resume delivery of Bull Run water. State and county health officials insist the general public is not at risk because the amount of crypto found in the water has been so low.

Nevertheless, the Portland Water Bureau took the reservoir offline and switched over to the groundwater wells along the Columbia River owned by the city on Feb. 13. Those wells have been providing all of the water to the city's customers since then.

Customers with questions are encouraged to call the Water Line at 503-823-7525.

Mark Miller contributed to this report.