Reservoirs cleaned, no cause found yet for Portland water contamination

PORTLAND, Ore. - So far the Portland Water Bureau hasn't found what caused the E. coli contamination of the city's water supply last week.

The scare forced officials to declare a water boil notice for the entire city last Friday. It was lifted mid-Saturday morning.

Two reservoirs on Mount Tabor were scrubbed down Monday as the water bureau cleaned up and tried to find what caused the water to test positive for E. coli. Crews were looking for something like a dead raccoon or, in their words, a "bag of dog poop" in the reservoirs.

The city drained and cleaned out reservoir numbers One and Five. Investigators are also reviewing surveillance video to see if they can track down the E. coli source. They believe the source is animal, not human.

Some people out at Mount Tabor on Monday told KATU they think extra attention to reservoir cleaning might not be a bad idea.

"It is out in the open where there is wildlife," said Derek Butler. "Maybe they should start cleaning it a little more often than they do, even though there isn't an E. coli scare."

Some of those at the reservoir spoke about the controversy over covering the reservoirs. And some said the city should focus on filtering the water, not covering it.

"These reservoirs have been exposed to elements for over 100 years, and this is not the first time an animal deposited its waste in here," said Iva Cunningham. "It rolls down hill in all kinds of ways. It's on the filtration end, not this end."

The water bureau says it may never know how the bacteria got in the water. A spokesperson said they never found the cause in the last two boil orders. Those were in 2009 and 2012.

According to the county, it has received no complaints of people being sick from the water. A spokesman said the typical incubation period is about five to 10 days after drinking contaminated water, depending on each person. But it could be hard to tell if the illness came from the water or something else.