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The Columbia County Spotlight's mailbag includes letters about St. Helens' water storage and the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. Helens needs to get its reservoir fixed

The city of St. Helens, five years ago, contracted to fix a leaking reservoir. This goes back to 2008, with a failed fix in 2009.

Western Partitions Inc. was awarded the contract Sept. 6, 2016, to fix the 2 million gallon reservoir. This initial fix then failed, resulting in three additional attempts to correct the initial repair, and all have failed.

St. Helens is going through the hottest, driest conditions ever experienced, and the city is sitting here with an empty reservoir. This is likened to having fire trucks at the station, but having empty fuel tanks.

For two weeks in June, I called Sue Nelson, city engineer, who would not return my phone calls. Finally I went to her office, where there was a notice on the door stating that you had to have an appointment. I determined that if she wouldn't respond to phone calls, it was unlikely that I would get an appointment. The city employees had been told not to talk to me.

The last time that we spoke in person, Sue assured me that the reservoir was going to be repaired as contracted by WPI with no expense to the city.

On April 12 and May 27, with a whole group, engineering contractor WPI and others again entered the reservoir. Since that time, there has been no activity.

One of the initial problems with the repair was moisture (water) during the application of the geotextile mat, resulting in poor adhesion, and water trapped under the geotextile mat. Upon the inspection of the failure, it was determined that there had been no oversight inspection when lower application was applied.

There was a recommendation that due to the condition of the work, that the initial work be removed and replaced. The three following repair corrections were without success. Each failure makes success less likely.

Now with the extreme fire dangers, we are left having an empty reservoir, and it seems that the city has been reluctant to press the issue. I believe the city is being held hostage to their own actions, due to the fact that they may be somewhat complicit with the initial failure because of their earlier lack of oversight.

It is time for the contract to be fulfilled, holding someone responsible to the contract stipulations.

Ron Trommlitz, St. Helens

Time for Oregon's COVID vaccine mandate

Now that Gov. Kate Brown has reinstated a statewide mask mandate, let's go all the way with a vaccination mandate.

Many of us have friends and neighbors who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and have refused to get it, thusly slowing the end of the pandemic and increasing the danger for other citizens.

Ask yourself this: Do you want to be browsing for books at the library or bookstore next to an unvaccinated person? Do you want to be shopping for produce next to an anti-vaxxer?

Hats off to the bars and restaurants that are leading the way by restricting entry to those who can show a valid CDC vaccination card. Let's do this, elected leaders, or get out of the way.

The COVID-19 virus will only leave when it has nobody left to infect.

Frank DiMarco, Portland

Concerned about the 'other' respiratory virus surge

As a pediatric nurse at a children's hospital here in Oregon, I have watched with concern as other parts of the country deal with a COVID-19 surge at the same time they are grappling with an unseasonable surge in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

RSV is a common childhood disease that usually hits in colder months. It is easily confused with a common cold but can be very serious especially for young children. The disease is responsible for nearly 16 times more infant hospitalizations than influenza and kills up to 500 children under age 5 every year.

Around 2,000 confirmed cases were recorded across the U.S. during the week of July 10, 2021, compared to less than a dozen during the week of July 25, 2020. The actual number of infections is likely higher, since clinicians may not test sick children for RSV outside its usual season.

In areas where RSV and COVID-19 are creating a "surge upon surge," healthcare providers are expressing concern about hospital bed availability and strain on the healthcare system.

While there are vaccines for COVID-19, there is currently no vaccine for RSV. However, medical researchers are close to finalizing two products, one for children and one for expectant mothers, that will protect infants against RSV.

Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect children from harmful diseases.

Once they are available, the Centers for Disease Control must ensure that RSV immunizations are included in the recommended childhood immunization schedule just like DTaP, polio and hepatitis.

While this summer RSV surge is unique, RSV outbreaks happen every year and these immunizations can keep thousands of children from the hospital and save hundreds of children's lives every year. RSV immunizations belong on the CDC's recommended immunization schedule and the Vaccines for Children program.

Brianna Mishler, Portland


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