The Troubled Ambassador

By Stephan Burklin

The city of Portland is perhaps the finest ambassador for the Environmental Protection Agency. Nestled in the idyllic Willamette Valley, the Rose City is the shining environmental vanguard, the poster child for sustainable growth and clean energy.

So when the EPA asks Portland to take precautionary measures to guarantee safe drinking water, it’s odd that the city refuses to comply.

The federal agency’s directive to remove illness-causing bacteria seems sensible enough; but Portlanders balk at the idea, for obvious reasons: Hazardous microorganisms have yet to be found in water samples, beer-makers may suffer from the altered character (and cost) of the water, and the $350M price-tag seems a bit high, given that Portland’s water source is the cleanest in the country.

Paradoxically, the “green capital” of America is now the EPA’s recalcitrant partner. The fiasco illustrates Portland’s inconsistencies: The city emphatically supports the costly initiatives it deems necessary but considers the EPA’s request outlandish.

Why? Because streetcars and net-zero buildings are so much sexier than a water-treatment facility. Evidently, Portland’s burgeoning reputation as a green mecca exempts the city from cumbersome precautions. Portland spends millions of dollars every year on highly visible projects; but according to the City Council, safe drinking water does not warrant that kind of attention.


Stephan Burklin is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to LinkedIn Post to Reddit

Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Maximillion

    This is because the City Council doesn’t drink the same water the rest of us do. They have special piped in water, at our expense, that has been triple filtered and ozone cleaned.
    If they had to drink this stuff you better believe they would act.

  • Zero

    Did Cacsade Policy just use the word “sexy?”.

    Oh those edgy libertarians… : )

  • Chris from Molalla

    I cant disagree that building a water treatment plant for something that has yet to be identified as a problem here makes little sense.

    The other side of that is when the Bull Run Watershed does finally burn from lack of sensible forest management they are going to be ROYALY screwed. Even a treatment plant wouldnt fix the muddy water and sediment that will be present.

  • Jesse O

    And the evidence that Portland doesn’t have safe drinking water is… ?

    Seems like this is more a case where Cascade should be pointing the finger at the EPA’s overreaching regulation, passed in response to something that happened in Milwaukie, rather that at a local solution that keeps quality water, helps the economy (beer mecca), and saves taxpayers money. Instead, Cascade randomly bashes Portland to bash Portland.

  • Dave A.

    And while we’re talking about water; let’s not forget Portland’s absurdly high water rates that include the highest waste water rates in the nation. Worst of all, when it rains heavily in Portland; poo poo still winds up in the rivers. Way to go scumbag Katz, Adams & Leonard!

Stay Tuned...

Stay up to date with the latest political news and commentary from Oregon Catalyst through daily email updates:

Prefer another subscription option? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, become a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Twitter Facebook

No Thanks (close this box)