In case of an emergency, you could drink out of the Willamette River near the boat ramp in Meldrum Bar Park and contract E. coli from livestock, pets and swimmers upstream.

Or, when disaster strikes, you could drink that same water out of a treatment unit manufactured by Global Pure Water and paid for by taxpayer dollars in the Oak Lodge Water District. Without any chemical addition such as chlorine, silver filters act as disinfectants while river water is purified through powdered, activated carbon.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: OLWD - Newly elected Oak Lodge Water District Commissioner Nancy Gibson samples a bottle of water pulled last week from the Willamette River near the boat ramp in Meldrum Bar Park and treated using a portable emergency water filtering system demonstrated by Tamra Helm. Dan Bradley, OLWD’s general manager, proposes buying five $3,000 ceramic and silver filters that can suck out 900 gallons a day from the Willamette River to create sources of potable water for citizens following an earthquake or other major disaster. Bradley offered to take the inaugural sip to help quell fears.

“I’m drinking first, and then if I die, commissioners probably won’t be in favor of buying the filters,” Bradley joked.

New OLWD Commissioner Nancy Gibson also sipped the water, emboldened by her anthropological work at Marylhurst University studying the use of thousands of such filters in developing countries. Contacted a couple of days following the Global Pure Water demonstration, Gibson said she had suffered no ill effects from drinking out of the Willamette.

“It tasted like good tap water, and I feel just fine,” Gibson said. “It’s a fairly simple system to utilize, and I’ve been intrigued with these things for awhile.”

Gibson said that although there were still details to work out for how to implement the filters in emergencies, she was generally optimistic about the idea. As part of the district’s plan to deal with catastrophes, a spigot at the bottom of each reservoir in the district also will provide drinking water.

Commissioners are expected to decide whether to purchase the filters during their regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the OLWD headquarters, 14496 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove.

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