Parasite found again. Is Portland's water waiver in jeopardy?

PORTLAND, Ore. - Just days before the state is supposed to decide whether to give Portland a waiver on building a $90 million water treatment plant, a second test finds a parasite in the city's drinking water reservoir.

A test last Thursday found cryptosporidium at the Bull Run reservoir. The parasite, which is common, can make people sick. The same parasite was found in a test in late December.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who oversees the city's water bureau doesn't think this will cost water payers. The Oregon Health Authority will only say that it's considering the test results and the parasite doesn't present an immediate threat to human health.

This latest discovery of cryptosporidium came from a sample taken Jan. 5 at a creek about two miles upstream from the water intake area.

Leonard said the water bureau will send a crew to search the creek for beavers, elks or whatever animal is responsible for the cryptosporidium spores.

The bureau has increased its testing of the drinking water system, knowing the Oregon Health Authority will decide by month's end whether Portland can skip building that $90 million water treatment facility.

"It would just be irrational for anyone to think in an area as large as the Bull Run there aren't critters that poop in the woods and after a heavy rain you wouldn't find some residue of that," Leonard said. "What would be worrisome (is) if you had huge amounts of cryptosporidium in our water supply, and we don't."

He argues the discovery of cryptosporidium doesn't harm the city's argument that it shouldn't have to build the expensive water treatment facility; instead, he says it's a sign that the city is thoroughly testing the water supply.

If the state does grant Portland a variance on building a treatment facility, the city would be required to test more frequently and notify the OHA immediately if cryptosporidium is discovered.

An OHA representative said Wednesday that it will consider the test results with previous public comments in making its decision.

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