Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Company hired by Water Bureau pollutes creek and then donates to anti-reform PAC

CH2Mhill is the contractor that designed and engineered the leaky new water reservoir at Powell Butte.  When finally reported, the tank had been leaking 280,000 gallons per day for at least 5 weeks (that's 8 backyard pools everyday).  Ok, so that's a mess.

But that's not all... that leaking water had to go somewhere and somehow the geniuses at the Portland Water Bureau decided that large amounts of chlorinated water could just get dumped into Johnson Creek, despite it being a sensitive habitat and all. So, PWB tells the contractor to partially dechlorinate the water and then dump it in the creek. Only, the contractor didn't actually achieve anywhere near the amount of dechlorination needed to protect the wildlife in the creek.  In fact, neighbors (and presumably the contractors and the City employees on the job site) could SMELL the chlorine coming off the water in the creek bed.  And Water Bureau simply trusted the contractor that they were dumping responsibly. So they say. We have to ask, in what universe does Portland City government allow anyone to dump mass amounts of anything into a creek like Johnson without having staff on site to verify test results themselves?  Apparently, any old nose would have done.  Wait, that's right, the City hired this contractor so they definitely wouldn't have had any reason to be on site, you know, managing the project with our well paid in-house PWB engineers.

Only, chlorine isn't all we smell in this story.  Given CH2Mhill's role as the brains behind the project, it's likely they are overseeing the construction, acting much like a general contractor on the Powell Butte project (which is months behind and struggling to hold water).  It's safe to assume CH2Mhill is responsible for the subcontractor that illegally dumped... so by rights, CH2Mhill dumped chlorine in the creek and killed the fish.  Here's a fun revelation:  CH2Mhill donated $5,000 to the PAC formed by Mayor Hales to fight off a new governance structure for the Portland Water Bureau.

Incompetence reigns among Portland Water Bureau management and City Council fights to defend it. And what about the environmental groups in town?  What have they to say about the dumping (which happened months ago, yet is only just this week making it into the paper)? Where have they been on this case, why weren't they sounding the alarm when they first learned the tank was leaking?  Oh. Never mind.  This election cycle they're in the business of making the Water Bureau and City Council look good, despite evidence to the contrary, because they've decided to fight against local utility management reform.

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