Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baker City Council Moving Forward with UV Treatment Plan

[Edited & Updated 8/28/13]

The Baker City Council is Moving Forward with a UV treatment Plan.

Despite objections from Roger Coles and Mike Downing, the Baker City Council, after hearing a presentation from Dave Leland, Interim Administrator, Center for Health Protection, of the Oregon Health Authority, decided to move forward with plans to install UV treatment of our water supply in order to deal with the Cryptosporidium problem.

Mr. Leland explained that UV treatment was acceptable as long as we implement improved measures to protect the watershed, especially from the number one threat: cows. "Sure, UV is still an option" as long as we meet the federal criteria, but that a more "robust" watershed control program would be needed. He noted that cattle are "implicated over and over again" in studies that have been conducted. He also said that cattle are around our watershed, but that is not the case in the other three Oregon cities that have been allowed to pursue options other than filtration. The easy access by cattle to our watershed is the difference, and he asked Council "How do we reduce the opportunities for cattle" to get into our watershed. If those opportunities can be significantly reduced, he noted "UV is still an option." He later stated that "Robust watershed protection will have to be in place with UV protection."

Councilor Mosier was tentatively in favor of UV but wanted more information with adequate time for study. Councilor Button was cautious, but more or less in favor of UV due to cost advantages. Mayor Langrell and Councilor Dorrah were clearly in favor for cost effectiveness reasons as long as wells could be found for backup to cover any problems that develop in the watershed. Councilor Johnson reminded all of the need for assurances and City Manager Mike Kee stated that if we manage the watershed correctly that we will be in compliance.

There was much more discussion, but in the end, the "consensus" was that  we should continue to pursue proven UV treatment due to the cost advantages, while also actively finding more wells to backup the ASR well and a rehabilitated second backup well at the golf course, in case of catastrophic fire or other problems in the watershed.

More to follow, but for now, we are good with the affordable UV option as long as we show that we can protect our relatively clean watershed from intrusion by cattle or other serious threats.

My letter to Council:

I appreciate the caution of some because it is a big decision and the future is not known. I expect that with global climate change that we might expect a major fire in the watershed at some point in the future. However, if we utilize the ASR well, the "golf course well," and one or two more good producing wells, as Mike and others have proposed, we can live through such an event with safe, clean water. I believe the critical point to be understood from the information provided by Mr. Leland, and apparently understood by you, is that we need to take protection of the watershed seriously, and keep cows out, as envisioned by the original plan. As I believe Mike noted, it is a good time to revisit and create a new, effective, Watershed Management Plan.
With an effective enforceable plan, proceeding with UV and wells should provide safe, affordable drinking water well into the future for our small, sustainable town. 
I might add that my understanding is that the Forest Service was not notified of the most recent cattle trespass, so, if true, and I believe it is, there is plenty of room for improved communication--both to upper city management, Council, and the Forest Service.

Also, the new engineer was impressive as a knowledgeable communicator when given his small chance. 
Hope I'm not being overbearing and out of place--just an opinion from a citizen who has tried to be informed. 
Thank you all for your efforts to understand and find solutions.
On the issue of the city water specialist communicating with the Forest Service when cows get in the watershed, I was told that the Forest Service had not received a single call from the city about cattle trespass during the last three summers. They do receive some calls from the grazing permittee or Forest Service employees when cows have gotten in, but did not receive a call from the permittee or the city concerning the most recent trespass.

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