Water Alert In Portland, Oregon

My fellow Portlanders, I just want to warn you not to drink any tap water west of the Willamette River. From the Water Bureau:


Water delivered by Portland Water Bureau, Burlington, Palatine Hill, and Valley View Water Districts could be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria


Routine water quality samples for total coliforms, including E. coli, were confirmed for fecal contamination in a Washington Park open reservoir on November 28, 2009. Fecal coliforms and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Microbes in these waters can cause short-term effects, such as diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

These symptoms are not only caused by organisms in drinking water. If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice. People at increased risk should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers.

What Should I do? What does this mean to me?

DO NOT DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT BOILING IT FIRST OR USE BOTTLE WATER. Boiled or bottled water should be used for drinking, making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice. Bring all water to a rolling boil for one minute, and let it cool before using, or use bottled water. Boiling kills bacteria and other organisms in the water.

What is being done?

The Portland Water Bureau has taken the reservoir out of service. We will inform you when tests show no bacteria and you no longer need to boil your water. We anticipate resolving the problem within 24 hours.

For more information, please contact Portland Water Bureau at 503-823-7770 or 1120 SW 5th Ave., Portland, OR, 97204. General guidelines on ways to lessen the risk of infection by microbes are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Please share this information with all the other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools, and businesses). You can do this by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

On a personal note, Mrs. T missed Thanksgiving because of exactly these symptoms. It took a couple days, but she’s recovering. Keep an eye on the Water Bureau website for updates.

Update [2009-11-28 21:58:23 by Turkana]: From KATU:

“This notice applies to you if your bill comes from the Valley View Water District, the Burlington Water District, the Palatine Hill Water District or the West Portland district,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams in a press conference held Saturday afternoon. “If you do not receive a bill from any of these four water districts, then this requirement does not apply to you.”

The West Portland district reportedly includes the Northwest Portland and Southwest Portland areas, with some restaurants closing now in the Pearl District and downtown as precaution. Authorities said it impacts more than 100,000 homes.

The Pearl is Portland’s most fashionable restaurant and nightlife district.

No illness has been linked to this to date. Hospitals and elderly care centers were notified first of the boil-water requirement on Saturday.

Routine water quality samples found fecal contamination in Washington Park’s Reservoir 3 – an open reservoir – on Wednesday. A second test on Saturday, Nov. 28, indicated Escherichia coli – commonly known as E. coli – in that reservoir. The Portland Water Bureau took the reservoir out of service Saturday morning and is in the process of draining it.

They found it Wednesday. Mrs. T was getting ill on Thursday…


  1. I visit the Portland area several times a year, but as of late, spend far less time in the downtown area with one exception (i.e., Portland Art Museum), since the city placed parking meters in almost every conceivable location, and parking fees are now required on Sundays until 7:00 P.M. City officials claim the additional parking revenues will be used to promote business in Portland. Go figure!

    Fortunately, it seems that some of outlying neighborhoods (there are many great ones in the Portland area) haven’t become tainted by this disincentive, so I now gravitate there instead. The Powell Book Store in the Hawthorne District would serve as a case in point.  The benefit for Portlanders, perhaps, is that it encourages the use of mass transit, which, paradoxically, could lead to decreased revenues from the parking meters.  

    Since I’m intending to visit the Portland Art Museum soon (there’s a special exhibit of a renowned work by Raphael, more specifically “The Woman with the Veil”), I will definitely check before drinking any of the water in the area.  

    Please don’t get me wrong.  Portland is one of my favorite cities.  The parking matter was just an unpleasant surprise, since even Seattle doesn’t charge for parking on Sundays.

    I think there was a home water filtration company, based in Minnesota, that grew significantly following a water contamination problem in Milwaukee in 1993 (i.e., Cryptosporidium), which sickened more than 400,000 people over a two-week period.  

    Hope the water problem in Portland is resolved soon, for everyone’s sake.

    • TMC on November 29, 2009 at 17:47

    Mrs. T is feeling better by now and hopefully you and your sons suffered no ill effects. I have a couple of suggestions,regarding bathing the little ones and washing your hands.

     Boil ALL the water you bath them in and then let it cool. Do not mix it with the tap water at all. Small children are more likely to swallow water while bathing than adults.

     Use a hand sanitizer AFTER even you’ve washed your hands as double protection against contamination and use paper towels to dry your hands.

     After having worked in places with no potable water and living at the end of line for the water mains in our area of NYC, I have had to deal with e-coli and other contaminations. Yes, we’ve had to boil water for days in certain places, especially near the far ends of the system where the water tends to stagnate, I live on a dead end off of a dead end and there are only 4 homes on those 2 street.

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