Portland residents have something to celebrate: They have clean water again. The urgency to stock up on bottled water is over, and residents can once again enjoy a nice glass of tap water without boiling it first.
After thoroughly testing the drinking water, The Portland Water Bureau found no bacterial contamination. Still, residents are encouraged to run water for at least two minutes, or until the water runs cold, in order to flush out all contaminated water from plumbing systems.
Despite the report, the Portland Water Bureau is still taking safety precautions, and will be draining and cleaning Reservoirs 1 and 5. The reservoirs will be back in service once they are declared safe. The Bureau commended customers for their patience and ensured that they would take all necessary action to protect the health and safety of their customers.
The alert was announced on Friday, May 23, after E. Coli and coliform were discovered in two of Portland’s main reservoirs — one at Mount Tabor and another one at the S.E 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street water sampling station. Water samples tested from May 20 to May 23 confirmed the reports. Residents in Burlington, City of Gresham, Lake Grove, Lorna Water, Palatine Hill, Rockwood, Tigard Water Service Area (including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain), Valley View, and the West Slope Water Districts were all affected.
Residents were advised to boil water for at least one minute before drinking, brushing their teeth, and cooking. All cold water and ice prepared prior to the alert were poured out. This caused many residents to flock to local supermarkets and empty shelves of bottled water.
This was not the first time Portland’s water has been tainted. In fact, just a month ago, the water was contaminated after a teenage boy reportedly took a leak in a local reservoir.
The Safe Water Drinking Act and the Total Coliform Rule requires all public water systems to be tested for harmful bacteria. According to the Portland Water Bureau, chlorine is used as a disinfectant to kill coliforms (bacteria found in food and water). Ammonia is also added to form chloramines — a more powerful and longer lasting disinfectant than chlorine.
The Portland Water Bureau is still investigating the cause of the contamination and is making sure all procedures were followed properly, and all standards were maintained. They are encouraging people to share the new information with residents who live in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses where people might not have received the notice directly.