Thursday, January 14, 2010

Portland Water Bureau doesn’t wear gloves?

Why wouldn’t Water Bureau staff wear gloves when they sample our water system? When taking a sample of just about anything, isn’t the goal to get just the sample, and nothing from the sampler? The following excerpt from a letter from former PURB member and microbiologist, Scott Fernandez, leaves me wondering what PWB’s definition of “professional” is.

…Last March Randy Leonard and Dave Shaff were notified of improper water samples taken on March 5, 2009 ~9AM at 59th and Lincoln. The person taking the sample was bare handed, working without gloves during the water extraction process. This violates standard water sample methodology protocol. During media coverage of the reservoir 3 E. coli event, the Oregonian pictured a Portland Water Bureau employee taking drinking water samples, once again without gloves.

Because of bacteriological contamination risk, data obtained using methods not conforming to strict aseptic technique protocol and guidelines are not reliable and therefore not usable in drawing any conclusions or assigning cause. Gloves are an important part of aseptic technique in drinking water sample methodology.(1, 2)
My graduate work was based on designing, implementing, and executing a drinking water safety program in rural eastern Washington. Microorganisms were analyzed, as was chemical water contamination from fertilizers to determine risk for methemoglobinemia, nitrites, and nitrates. I also had to deal with closed reservoirs (cisterns), located on high points of the property to provide gravity fed water as

Randy Leonard and Dave Shaff have made it policy to arbitrarily contradict the scientific comments I make. Shaff tells me, and others, I have no credibility or expertise in drinking water microbiology and chemistry. His response to not having gloves was only “ Water Bureau employees are professional”. …

Scott Fernandez - M.Sc. Biology / Microbiology

1. EPA Total Coliform Handbook- 2006
2. Colorado Department Public Health – 2008 (2008 closed reservoir bacteria death)