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Three Private Homes' Independent Testing Questions City's 5/23 Boil-Water Alert
Posted Jun 17, 2014

Three Private Homes' Independent Testing Questions City's 5/23 Boil-Water Advisory

Portland Water Info has obtained documents showing that three private households near the open Mt. Tabor Reservoir had their tap water independently tested during the 5/23/2014 Boil Water Alert, and all samples tested negative for total coliform and E coli bacteria.

Says one homeowner, "We feel we were lied to."

The three households, which include three children and two individuals with reduced immunity, became concerned when they were told by Portland Water Bureau on 5/23 that they may have been drinking contaminated water for three days.  They decided to have their households' tap water tested independently, and the results all came back negative.

According to a group representative, "The City seems to have a habit of issuing boil-water notices over a weekend or holiday."  (The City last issued a boil-water advisory on Saturday, 7/21/2012.)  "And our neighborhood has a long history of  being given conflicting information about our reservoir.  Given the 30-hour testing window, weekend boil-water alerts seem almost tailor-made to prevent private citizens from being able independently verify whether our water is actually contaminated.  This just raised too many red flags for us."

The home owners made special arrangements with an independent laboratory to do Saturday testing of five samples collected on Friday.  This included persuading a lab employee to work on his day off so that sample incubation could begin within 30 hours of specimen collection, as required by lab protocol.

"We had to drive across town in holiday traffic to get the sterile vials before closing time; coordinate testing among the different homes; then drive back across town to the lab's after-hours drop box.  But it was the only way we could independently test the City's claim that the reservoir was sending us contaminated water.  Of course we had to wait for the results, so we boiled our water like everyone else.  But at least in the end we found out what really was--or in this case wasn't--in our water."

A representative from the laboratory in question confirmed that the facility performs total coliform and E coli testing for several local municipalities, though not for City of Portland, which does its own testing. 

Concluded one home owner:  "If the City put reservoir politics before the truth, that's not acceptable. "