Tigard marks 'independence' not with fireworks but waterworks
There were no bands, parades or skyrockets in flight to mark the occasion, but Tigard officials celebrated "Water Independence Day" earlier this month.
On June 9, 2016, the water supply Tigard had been purchasing from the Portland Water Bureau was shut off — and taps within Tigard's service area began pouring water from the Clackamas River.
John Goodrich, a Tigard utility manager, remembers the date well. For him, it was the culmination of a decade of work on what is now known as the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, a shared water transmission and treatment system that also includes facilities in Gladstone and West Linn.
"I started on this project in 2006, when it was just a concept idea," Goodrich said.
He remarked, "It's just been a long process, and sometimes, we forget to celebrate milestones."
Goodrich will brief the Tigard City Council on Tuesday, June 20, presenting a report on developments since Tigard began receiving Clackamas River water last June and looking ahead to the near future.
This month, Tigard published its annual water quality report, detailing some findings that Goodrich is excited about. Water sampling mandated by state regulations since Tigard began receiving water through the partnership with Lake Oswego shows what Goodrich called "significant" reductions in both lead levels and traces of chemical byproducts from the water treatment process. Whether that's because water from the Clackamas River is naturally purer than Bull Run water or due to a superior treatment system, Goodrich can't say.
"I don't know, per se, what caused the change," Goodrich said. "I only know what the results showed. The results showed that the risk of lead in drinking water for our consumers is much less and well below any action level by the (Environmental Protection Agency), and it was a significant change. So that was good news, and I think that will continue in the future."
One of the elements in the treatment of LOT water is ozone, which is injected into the water after sediments are filtered out, according to Goodrich.
Ozone is a chemical relative of oxygen; the breathable oxygen in Earth's atmosphere consists of two oxygen atoms bound together to form what chemists often call "molecular oxygen," while the molecule of ozone, found in small amounts in the upper atmosphere, is comprised of three oxygen atoms. Unlike molecular oxygen, ozone is not breathable, but the atmospheric layer it forms plays an important role in human health by absorbing some harmful solar radiation. In industrial applications, ozone is used as a disinfectant and deodorizer, with ozone generators commonly employed to help sterilize and remove offensive smells from car interiors and residences.
"In the river, there are compounds that can create taste and odor problems, and ozone is a very strong oxidant and can destroy those before they get into the (distributed) water," Goodrich said.
Construction is wrapping up on LOT infrastructure, although some landscaping and site work is ongoing at the water treatment plant in West Linn. As such, Goodrich said, the oversight committee that Tigard and Lake Oswego officials formed to oversee the construction process is now transitioning to operational oversight.
The future of how the water partnership will be governed is not yet clear. Members of the Tigard City Council pushed for the formation of a joint water commission at a meeting with their Lake Oswego counterparts earlier this year, but Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker and several city councilors have indicated they are happy with the system that is currently in place. Goodrich said the councils have yet to reach an agreement, so for now, the partnership is continuing under the model the cities agreed to back in 2010.
"The purpose of the oversight committee, up until this point, has been to basically provide oversight on the construction project," said Marty Wine, Tigard's city manager. Now that construction is substantially complete, she added, the committee is turning its attention to figuring out how the water partnership should be governed going forward.
"I would say we haven't resolved that," Wine said. "At some point, the oversight committee will need to take that up again."
Under the terms of their intergovernmental agreement, which was signed in 2008, Tigard and Lake Oswego have three years from the completion of construction to decide whether to change their agreement to shift to a new governance structure, Wine said.
Tigard officials are also looking ahead to scenarios that could arise in the future. Although it is no longer a wholesale customer of Portland water, Goodrich said the City of Tigard would like to ink an agreement with the Portland Water Bureau for access to an "emergency water" supply. The city is also a stakeholder in the Willamette Water Supply Program, a joint venture between the Tualatin Valley Water District (which supplies water to about one-third of Tigard) and the City of Hillsboro to establish the Willamette River as their drinking water source, although city officials do not anticipate any imminent need to draw water from the Willamette. (Tigard voters would have to approve the city's use of the Willamette for drinking water first, too, under Tigard's city charter.)
Right now, though, Goodrich is happy to mark "Water Independence Day" in Tigard.
"I think it's an exciting time, myself. I think the water security over the next 20 or 30 years is going to be really important. I think the Clackamas River is a high-quality water source," Goodrich said.
He added, "You know, it's hard to find a word that describes it, but it's a good thing. For us to have access is a good thing. … We have a new water treatment process that should provide years of good service."
Tigard's water service area also includes unincorporated Bull Mountain, which is served by the Tigard Water District, and the small neighboring cities of Durham and King City, which contract with Tigard to receive drinking water.
The Tualatin Valley Water District includes Metzger and north Tigard, as well as the Tigard Triangle, the area west of Mount Sylvania that is bounded by Interstate 5, Highway 99W and Highway 217. Those areas continue to receive Bull Run water from Portland, as the Tualatin Valley Water District is a wholesale customer of the Portland Water Bureau, as is the City of Tualatin.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misstated the year the intergovernmental agreement between Tigard and Lake Oswego was signed. It was signed in 2008. The amount of time the agreement gives the oversight committee to review the governance structure has also been corrected. It is a three-year period. The story has also been updated with comments from Tigard's city manager.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times