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Story by Aubra Salt - The Oregon Herald Oregon Herald
Published on Thursday March 4, 2010 - 1:36 PM
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The cost of water and sewer costs are set to double. That's why private water wells are looking mighty attractive these days because they're mostly free and often cleaner and fresher than "city water". Portland residents have seen their sewer bills skyrocket over the past fifteen years and should now prepare for another very large increase. Water bills could double in the next few years. Water and sewer users are being asked to foot the bill for expensive, federally mandated infrastructure projects.Rules from the US government are forcing residents of Portland to discontinue using five open reservoirs. Contaminants may get into our drinking water, according to Environmental Protection Agency officials, and make people sick.

Portland officials refused to cap reservoirs and made plans to build underground storage tanks. The 10-year project could cost $400 million. However, Portland could remove $100 million from the price if the EPA does not ask for or require a new water treatment plant.

Rules requires the Portland Water Bureau to either cover the open reservoirs in Mount Tabor and Washington parks or treat all of the water coming out of them to eliminate contaminants. The bureau decided to replace the reservoirs with new underground storage tanks.

Portland Water Bureau officials said there they don't have choice. "There's no way around this. It has to be done," said David Shaff, of the Portland Water Bureau. Portland resident Jeff Fulps said there are ways for people to lower water bills, such as collecting rain water, or using water wells, or drilling for water.

The Portland Water Bureau has ambitious plans for Dodge Park where 14 acres at Bull Run River flows into the Sandy river. Work is well under way at Powell Butte, but the City Council has not formally approved the entire reservoir-substitution plan. It is waiting for a recommendation from the Portland Utility Review Board before taking action.

The bureau has overestimated water use in recent years and that's another reason for the falling demand. And since it costs the same to run the system no matter how much water is consumed, the rate has to rise to cover the fixed costs.