City considering two options to deal with cryptosporidium in water

The Portland Water Bureau is looking at two options to deal with a potentially dangerous parasite that can make people sick.

In early January cryptosporidium was found in several water samples. Portland Water Bureau Director Mike Stuhr says it was first detected at the bureau’s intake facility. Since then it has been detected 13 more times.

So far Multnomah County says two people tested positive for the parasite but are unsure if it came from drinking Portland’s tap water.

Out of an abundance of caution, the bureau switched water sources from the Bull Run watershed to the Columbia south shore wells in Northeast Portland.

Now the bureau is looking at either constructing a new treatment plant that uses ultraviolet lights to deal with the parasite or switching back to the Bull Run watershed even if the parasite is still there.

Building a treatment plant would be expensive, however.

“Even when we were operating off the Bull Run, that was still considered safe,” Stuhr said.

He said it’s not known why officials are seeing an increase in cryptosporidium, but they believe wildlife is to blame.

“This is a very, very, very protected watershed, about as protected as you could get, and the only thing that’s up there is authorized people and the bears who live in the woods,” Stuhr said.

The Bull Run watershed is an outdoor, unfiltered water source. Drinking water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals before it gets to your faucet. But chlorine doesn’t kill the parasite.

The microscopic parasite causes diarrhea and other health-related issues.

The water bureau says the tap water is safe to drink even if it switches back to the Bull Run watershed.

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