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PWB begins test drilling for pipelines at proposed Boring filtration plant site
The project to build a new Portland Water Bureau filtration plant on Carpenter Lane in Boring is moving forward, with filtration pipeline drilling beginning today, March 1, as rural residents continue to voice opposition.
To recap: The Portland Water Bureau began planning its new filtration plant in 2017, after a mandate from the Oregon Health Authority required the bureau build a facility to treat for cryptosporidium by 2027. This mandate was to bring the bureau into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.
The plant is the result of multiple incidents of detection of cryptosporidium, a potentially deadly organism that was first found in the Bull Run watershed in 2016.
The Portland City Council approved the plant location on Dec. 12, 2018. During the hearing, bureau officials testified they had studied six sites, with Carpenter Lane the only one that met all of the bureau's criteria, including being property the bureau owned; zoning to allow a filtration plant; and the right elevation to allow gravity to move water into and out of the plant to keep operating costs down.
Though the more than $820 million project has yet to really break ground, neighbors of the proposed plant site on Carpenter Lane in eastern Multnomah County have expressed numerous concerns and spoken at several Portland City Council meetings in the past three years.
The water bureau portrays the project as a promising venture to improve water quality for its customers, but citizens of Boring and Portland have united over a deluge of concerns related to the plant, such as water cleanliness, impact on the "rural feel" of the area, construction and operation noise and potential increases in water prices.
Now as drilling to inform design for the filtration pipelines begins at the site, residents are reaffirming their worries about the affects the sound will have on the community.
In a recent correspondence with the bureau, the recently revived Cottrell Community Planning Organization (CPO) reiterated the residents' "disappointment" in how the bureau is executing the filtration plant project.
"The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) did not consider our community's concerns while planning your work, nor did you consult with neighboring property owners about how drilling at these sites might influence their lives during the pandemic," the CPO claimed. "We were hopeful PWB would understand that most of us work from home and have children distance-learning. We won't be able to escape the noise made by your contractors. The city of Portland and PWB's negligence to our community shamefully continues with the lack of consideration of our well-being and right to use and enjoy our properties."
Drilling is scheduled to occur from March 1 through April 16, starting near the Hudson Intertie on Southeast Lusted Road and moving north along raw water pipe routes toward the site on Carpenter Lane.
The bureau said in a statement that "there will be significant noise during the drilling, ranging from 70 to 80 (decibels)," which they said is comparable to the sound of a medium-sized tractor. PWB Public Information Officer Jaymee Cuti added that there could be peaks in noise of up to 90 decibels, but that is normal with this type of drilling and the bureau and contractors are working to mitigate the impact on neighbors.
"Our drilling contractor, Western States Soil Conservation, Inc., is planning to minimize those occurrences by using an automated hammer tip, slowing down the hammer rate, and running at a reduced engine speed," Bureau Project Communications Manager Bonita Oswald explained. "Ryan Nelson, my associate from the Water Bureau will also be on site to monitor this situation."
Work is to be limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, with the drilling anticipated to take a few days at each location. Temporary lane closures — not full road closures — in the public right-of-way where drilling is taking place are also expected. Flaggers will be present to direct drivers during these interruptions in traffic.
Residents continue to organize
While Portland City Council has given the green light to the bureau thus far for this project, Cottrell CPO leadership, which includes vocal project opponents and Boring residents Lauren and Ian Courter, are encouraging neighbors to not give up hope on getting the project out of their community.
In a recent email sent to CPO members and interested parties, the CPO leaders directed residents who wish to comment on the drilling work in particular to "call your county sheriff's non-emergency line (and report) a noise ordinance violation."
Neighbors are also advised to document what they see and hear with video and audio recordings, while noting the time and location of the occurance.
Neighbors are also being advised to "call your county commissioners."
They also encouraged those concerned about their water rights related to their personal wells to call Ken Ackerman, PWB Senior Engineer for the Pipeline Project and "demand they complete and pay for a flow test prior to and following drilling by a third party."
"This is being done for those who have requested it," the CPO leaders claimed. "Remember, one family lost their well due to test drilling. Folks, this is just a small taste of what could be coming. You will not want to live here when the real noise and traffic starts. We are all in this together; we are gaining momentum. Consider the fight against this truly unethical takeover by the city of Portland. There is no county approval to build at Carpenter Lane, yet here they are significantly disrupting our lives."
Oswald confirmed that the bureau has been completing and funding flow tests of neighboring wells on a case-by-case basis.
"We have been (providing tests) for properties that make sense," she explained. "We've been accommodating what we can."
She also explained that the family the CPO referenced who lost their well, has been compensated.
"The city does not know what caused the issue with their well," Oswald said, adding that there was drilling to test soil on the proposed plant site in 2019, but that the bureau was uncertain of any correlation between that drilling and the neighboring well issues. That said, the city compensated the neighbors — the Walters — because it was anticipated that during the project the bureau would need to ask them to move their well anyway.
"The (Portland) Water Bureau's position is that our actions did not damage their well or aquifer. However, in the future, when we start construction and excavate our site, we will need to dewater it, which will likely have some type of impact on their shallow well," said Cuti. "These are the types of issues that construction projects work through in the planning phases so that solutions can be found and applied. We very much value our relationship with adjacent neighbors as we work through this planning phase, and because we want to partner with this community on solutions, we also want to minimize any potential future impacts such as this."
The city ended up paying $55,000 to relocate the well for the Walters.
"It is mutually beneficial for us test these wells," Oswald added. "That's one of the reasons we want to have these well tests done, too, is to make sure any claims that are we get are legitimately (tied) to our drilling."
While the Cottrell CPO asserts that "this project is not a done deal; do not believe their marketing materials" and that "the federal mandate requires treatment, (but) filtration at Carpenter Lane is not required by the federal government," Oswald and Cuti maintain that the filtration effort is mandated federally and by the health authority, and that this is the site that has been chosen and where that effort will be manifested.
"Council directed us to build the filtration plant (and) we are committed to build the filtration plan and have it in operation in 2027. That commitment is documented in a bilateral agreement with our regulators and we are making progress on that commitment to our regulators and that directive from council."
The latest filtration project construction information can be found online.
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