Tualatin to address potential water emergency issues
The city of Tualatin is moving ahead on plans to address how water would be provided to residents in the event of a water emergency.
During a work session Monday, Nicki Pozos of the Portland consulting firm Barney & Worth, discussed plans to educate both emergency responders and the public in the coming months on what the city's response would be – as well as that of residents -- in the event of something happening to the water supply.
She pointed to last summer's discovery of low levels of toxins that were caused by algae blooms found in Salem's drinking water is an example of a possible scenario that the city should be prepared to address. Salem warned residents at the time not to drink from their taps until the problem was addressed.
"Within a few hours, the stores had run out of bottled water," Pozos pointed out, saying that Salem at the time had no plan on how to distribute bottled water.
The city gets its water, which comes from the Bull Run Watershed and the Columbia South Shore Well Field, from the Portland Water Bureau.
And preparation should also include gearing up for potential earthquakes including a catastrophic Cascadia subduction zone, frequently referred to as "The big one," predicted to hit the West Coast in the future, said Pozos.
She said developing an emergency water plan would include identifying sites for emergency water distribution along with identifying ways to maintain service to residents as well as educating the public on what it needs to do in an emergency. Plans set for the upcoming months to meet with emergency responders including the city's Community Emergency Response Team (more commonly referred to as CERT). CERT is a citizen's group that prepares and trains residents for major catastrophes.
Jeff Fuchs, Tualatin's public works director, said plans are to eventually incorporate an emergency water chapter into the city's water master plan, telling the council that the city would try to borrow water from other cities or water providers in the event of an emergency.
Several questions came up during the discussion including one by Councilor Paul Morrison regarding how events would pan out if the city experienced a water emergency and the city wanted to borrow water from a neighboring city such as Wilsonville or Sherwood. Both of those cities draw their water from the Willamette River, he pointed out, whose use is prohibited under the Tualatin City Charter.
City Attorney Sean Brady said if such a scenario ever played out, the governor would likely declare an emergency, which would allow Willamette River water to be used.
Mayor-elect Frank Bubenik also asked if the city might consider perhaps buying water "bladders" to help out in a crisis or perhaps purchase an old Army surplus water truck for distributing clean water.
However, Fuchs pointed out that if a Cascadia event happened, a single truck or even many wouldn't be much of a help. In response to how long the city might be able to hold out with no water being provided by Portland, Fuchs said the city has about 11 million gallons of stored water, enough water for residents for a few days if it's winter, less if it's summer.
He said the city's six reservoirs are seismic resistant but not all the hardware that distributes the water is, noting it would be very expensive to retrofit that equipment in response to a question from Councilor Robert Kellogg.
Mayor Lou Ogden too pointed out if there was a water emergency, some local providers might be telling the city to wait in line like the others.
Fuchs said the city also has small water connections to several local cities as well.
No decisions can be made during a work session and public workshops addressing how the city will proceed in the event of a water emergency will be set in the upcoming months.