Historical Relationship between Montgomery Watson Harza Global, Inc., an Additional Bull Run Treatment Plant, Portland’s Open Reservoirs and the EPA’s 2006 LT2 Rule
Montgomery Watson Harza Global, Inc. (MWH) is a large multinational corporation that builds underground reservoir tanks, treatment plants, dams and other water projects around the world.
Nationally, MWH 32-year veteran, Rhodes Trussel, chaired the EPA Science Advisory Board Drinking Water Committee, providing “scientific quality control” over the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water rule (LT2), a regulation that, in its final form, stands to benefit MWH and other such corporations while potentially harming the drinking water community.
Locally, MWH has been on retainer with the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) for several decades. MWH has played a significant role in the current crises facing Portland’s Bull Run system. The flawed 2006 EPA LT2 regulation requires that Portland build an additional Bull Run treatment plant and bury, cover or additionally treat (at the outlet) our five open reservoirs all without any measurable public health benefit . These projects as proposed and estimated by the Portland Water Bureau will cost ratepayers at least $800 million dollars in capital costs alone ($1.6 billion with debt service) and will provide no measurable public health benefit while creating new unnecessary risks to our Bull Run water.
BACKGROUND of COZY CONSULTANTS - Strategies to control conversaton and attack water quality advocates
MWH’s regional president, Joe Glicker, P.E. (engineer), is a 14-year Portland Water Bureau (PWB) veteran who left the Bureau in 1994 to become a revolving-door MWH consultant (1995), immediately securing two lucrative PWB consultant contracts. Many Bull Run advocates consider him the architect of plans and actions that would force the unnecessary construction of a Bull Run filtration plant and burial of Portland’s 5 open reservoirs. These advocates include members of the highly respected and long-running Bull Run Interest Group (BRIG), Citizens Interested in Bull Run Inc. (CIBRI) and Citizens Interested in Safe Water.
While employed by the PWB, Glicker authored an article describing how public understanding with regard to drinking water can be manipulated and managed, and he subsequently demonstrated strategies for silencing community advocates of quality water and Bull Run. Glicker’s 1990 article entitled Convincing the Public that Drinking Water is Safe, discusses ways of controlling the conversation, determining what the public ought to know, using the media, as well as influencing state and federal regulations, and much more.
In 1993, as a high-ranking PWB official, Glicker orchestrated a campaign to discredit (silence) a highly respected and credentialed water quality expert, Doug Larson. Glicker contacted various conference organizers in order to get Larson removed as a speaker, and used e-mail to organize a harassment effort.
Glicker had been disputing that logging negatively impacts water quality. Eventually, a lawsuit was filed against the City resulting in Portland issuing a public apology and paying out $73,000. Rather than fire Glicker, the Portland Water Bureau promoted him later that year. Illegal logging in Bull Run was stopped.
NUMEROUS COZY CONSULTANT CONTRACTS
The contracts outlined below represent the known PWB / MWH contracts that are directly or indirectly related to an additional Bull Run treatment plant and Portland’s open reservoirs. In many of the PWB documents produced by MWH, the consultant often self references without acknowledging that the referenced document or project is their own work.
“Logging-rolling” relationships exist between MWH and CH2M HILL, Black and Veatch and others, ie, often when one consultant is awarded a contract, subcontract work is shared with one of the other favored firms.
At one point MWH held all eight (8) contracts simultaneously.
Within the first year of employment with MWH (1995), soon after leaving the PWB, Glicker, with the help of Water Bureau employees serving on contract selection committees, secured two lucrative contracts - one related to additional Bull Run treatment and building additional underground reservoirs, creating a center that would allow for blending polluted source water with pristine Bull Run water (Powell Butte Master Plan - amended and extended numerous times over 9 years), and one related to the open reservoirs (amended and extended 8 times over 8 years).
With regard to both Bull Run treatment and the open reservoirs, MWH (Glicker) was contracted by the PWB to assist in negotiating the EPA Enhanced Surface Water rules including LT2, a rule that would mandate the construction of an unnecessary Bull Run treatment plant and, ultimately, burying, covering or additionally treating (at the outlet) the open reservoirs (1997-2003). Initially, the rule development process was focused on increasing watershed protections, the only true protection for keeping sewage and its resultant problematic contaminants out of drinking water. Watershed protection activities benefit the drinking water community but not corporations. The same is true of good operating and maintenance practices related to in town storage facilities, Portland’s five open reservoirs- good operations and maintenance protects our in town storage but does not benefit the corporations- thus the push for build projects.
During this time, MWH was concurrently subcontracted to recommend system-wide long-range Capital Projects the Water Bureau should undertake (Infrastructure Master Plan CH2Mhill/MWH subcontract 1997- 2003). In 2000, three years before the draft LT2 rule was released for public comment and 2 years before they ran the Bull Run treatment panel, MWH recommended that in response to LT2, the PWB should build an Ultraviolet Light Radiation Plant in the watershed as an interim treatment strategy and, ultimately, build a membrane filtration plant at Powell Butte (their report also recommends that a 5th Conduit be built related to the treatment plant).
POWELL BUTTE - BULL RUN TREATMENT PLANT, “BLEND DEMAND CENTER”, NUMEROUS 50 MG BURIED TANKS
MWH was hired to complete the Land Use Review (CUMP) for Powell Butte (under their Powell Butte Master Plan contract 1995- 2004), the site they’d selected for a Bull Run filtration plant and for construction of multiple additional buried storage tanks. Over the past 23 years since 1986, while the service area population has steadily increased from 550,000 to over 800,000, Bull Run water demand,water use/ water sales has steadily declined, per PWB records. Population growth and climate change have not resulted in a need for additional storage.
Through a separate contract (Regional Transmission and Storage), MWH outlined a vision for a regional “demand center” at Powell Butte wherein, with a filtration plant in place, Bull Run water could be blended with other source waters, including Columbia river water. In the same document, MWH outlined how ownership (control) of our Bull Run system could be transferred away from Portland control to a regional body via a "no vote” Intergovernmental Agreement.
MWH’s Glicker and his wife Lisa Obermeyer were concurrently contracted (2001-2005) by the PWB to lead the 18-month Bull Run treatment panel established in response to the EPA LT2 regulation, the regulation Glicker had been hired to assist in negotiating (1997-2003). Mr. Glicker and Ms. Obermeyer were the primary panel presenters. MWH veteran and CEO, Rhodes Trussell, was a presenter to the Glicker-led Bull Run panel. As noted previously, MWH’s Rhodes Trussell was also serving as the chair of EPA’s Science Advisory Board Drinking Water Committee, providing LT2 “ scientific quality control”.
With regard to LT2 and Portland’s historic open reservoirs, MWH held an open reservoir contract that was amended and extended 8 times over 8 years, with additional work and dollar amounts added (1995-2004) while concurrently assisting a PWB manager, Rosemary Menard, in negotiating the LT2 rule (1997-2003). MWH was awarded the 2003 Mt. Tabor reservoir burial design contract and was also a major information supplier to the EPA LT2 consultant hired to lead Portland’s 2004 LT2- related Independent Reservoir Review Panel. This was a City-selected 3-month reexamination of the proposed burial plan, convened as a result of strong public protest, as well as the lack of process. The panel consultant, Mike McGuire, was the EPA’s LT2 Federal Advisory Committee consultant. In the end, the reservoir panel did not support burying, covering or additionally treating the open reservoirs, opting for a mitigation plan for maintaining our open drinking water reservoirs.
The LT2 open reservoir requirements were inserted in the rule without the EPA collecting any data or conducting scientific research that supported such requirements. The draft 2003 rule allowed for open reservoirs.
From Dr Joseph L. Miller Jr. (preeminent Bull Run Interest Group member), June 1, 1998: “Bull Run is an unusual water source because it was protected from human contamination in order to supply pure, unfiltered drinking water to the City of Portland and nearby communities.”
“ We can learn from the history how public opinion is manipulated and exploited and how representative democracy is distorted. We can breach the iron curtain around information around our drinking water.”
Known MWH Bull Run Treatment Plant and Open Reservoir Related Consultant Contracts
Floy Jones, a founding member of the Friends of the Reservoirs researched the contract history outlined below between 2003 and 2004.
v Bull Run Water Treatment Study1989-1993?
This contract was amended 3 times with additional dollar amounts added. Original contract was to expire January 31, 1991; extension dates not noted in amendments. This contract required returning to Council to increase the dollar amount of contract. Most if not all subsequent contracts allowed for increasing the contract dollar amount by 25% without returning to Council for approval.
Produced 6 spiral bound reports including January, 1993 "Summary Report for the Water Treatment Pilot Study", October, 1992, "Preliminary Facility Plan Report for the Water Treatment Pilot Study" April, 1992, "Pilot Plant Study for the Water Treatment Pilot Study", December, 1991, "Chloramination Chemistry Study Report for the Water
Treatment Pilot Study", September, 1991, "Disinfection Report for the Water Treatment Pilot Study”, July, 1991, "Final Report: Disinfection Alternatives Study: Seattle Water
Department, Tacoma Water Division in Conjunction with Portland Bureau of
Waterworks", April, 1990, "Pre-Design Report for the Water Treatment Pilot Study"
February, 1990, "Alternative Analysis Report for the Water Treatment Pilot
Joe Glicker, then a PWB manager was on the selection committee for this contract.
The contract ordinances were submitted to Council as emergency ordinances*
Total fees for the contact as amended June 23, 1992 $2,113,945.00
v Open Reservoir Study 1995-2004, Contract # 30491
Note: RESERVOIR Contract details outlined in a SEPARATE REPORT. Contract submitted as an emergency ordinance* Contract amended 8 times with additional work added as recommend by MWH. For example, installation of a liner at reservoir 5, conducting a national open reservoir survey. The contract was extended numerous times, with several extensions occurring after contract expired. $2,138,900.00
v Powell Butte Master Plan July1, 1995-July 31,03 (’04), Contract # 29987 Work continued beyond expiration date until at least until January 1, 04, invoice $1,119,176.39.
Contract work included update of MWH’s earlier Bull Run Treatment Study (1992), Bull Run treatment plant siting analysis taking into consideration the Regional Supply Plan Phase 2 and the Columbia River Water Treatment Study. Three treatment plant layouts at Powell Butte to be developed
Contract submitted as emergency ordinance*. Under Commissioner Sten’s watch the contract was amended 8 times often with significant dollar increases without returning to council. On 8/23/96 $142,886.00 was added without a return to City council. In January of ’98 $30,000 added. The Bureau of Purchasing (B of P) pointed out that the contract had expired and that a change order was insufficient. B of P advised that a new contract thru ordinance may be required. In 1999 Com. Erik Sten brought the contract to Council to again increase the contract amount, in this case by $134,000. The contract was extended numerous times most recently in July 2003 with the term extended to July 31, 03. The contract was extended after it expired on at least one occasion. Lisa Obermeyer, project manager, Joe Glicker, technical advisor $1,120,723.00
v Unfiltered Systems Working Group- EPA Federal Regulation Support (Enhanced Surface Water regulations- LT2)
. Contract 1997- 2003 Erik Sten Commissioner in charge
Rosemary Menard, Portland Water Bureau Manager assumed lead role in suggesting and initiating local contract with MWH, coordinating Large Unfiltered Working Group members NY, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Tacoma
Joseph L. Glicker, former PWB manager, functioned as MWH project manager. Contract was established such that MWH could assist in negotiated EPA drinking water regulation. Their work included Portland specific work in addition to Regulatory Assistance for the Unfiltered Group. Final work product for Portland only work - Technical memos on treatment plant site analysis and Bull Run Water Treatment Plant Facility Plan update to 1992 work.
Rosemary Menard, Mort Anoushirivani of PWB and Dave Hillmore of Seattle Water Dept. constituted the selection committee hiring MWH. Rosemary Menard came from Seattle WB to Portland in 1995.
Rosemary Menard and Joe Glicker MWH were key EPA Enhanced Surface Water Regulation negotiators. Rosemary Menard was a member of the Federal Advisory Committee (FACA) for the Long-Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) process signing off on the “Agreement in Principle” for Portland and the Unfiltered Working Group.
Although Water Bureau managers do not have the authority to enter into agreements on behalf of the City, Ms. Menard signed the FACA “Agreement in Principle” without it ever being brought before Council and without any public disclosure.
Ms. Menard’s involvement in this negotiated rulemaking process and signing onto the “Agreement in Principle” essentially meant that she (and Joe Glicker, MWH) had committed the City of Portland without any authority to requirements that if implemented would unnecessarily degrade our pure Bull Run source water and potentially degrade our open reservoirs while providing no measurable public health benefit, creating new risks and costing ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Before the official FACA process began Rosemary Menard and Joe Glicker met behind closed doors in D.C. with EPA Enhanced Surface Water rule negotiators (Stig Regli).
This contract and the details of the EPA LT2 negotiated rulemaking process were in essence hidden from the public. In November 2004, after the PWB stonewalled a document request, Floy Jones and Scott Fernandez spent six 40-hour weeks at the PWB reviewing six boxes of documents related to this MWH contract and the LT2 negotiation process.
The role of the PWB and MWH in the development of the extremely flawed EPA LT2 remains generally unknown to the public.
When seeking this corporate contract Ms. Menard communicated via e-mail with the City Attorney inquiring as to how this work could be shielded from the public. The short written reply was that initially it could be hidden under attorney/client privilege.
Contract ordinance submitted as emergency ordinance* and at time of 1st amendment a clause was added allowing Commissioner Sten to sign subsequent amendments without return to Council, $800,000.00 which included $70,000 for Portland specific work
v Infrastructure Master Plan- Erik Sten Commissioner in charge. Contract years
1997- 2000? Final report 2000, Amendments and extensions of this contract were not researched. Contract work shared with CH2M HILL Inc. Pre selection July 1997 memo references both CH2M Hill and MWH as team, contract awarded December 1997.
Document identifies recommended major capital improvements needed over the next 10-25 years. This 2000 document outlines Bull Run treatment strategy with the building of an Ultraviolet Light Radiation Plant (UV) identified as the Interim Treatment with the building of a Membrane Filtration plant to follow as the final treatment strategy Contract bid, $586, 480, initial contract awarded $796,000.00
v Regional Transmission and Storage Strategy –. Erik Sten Commissioner in charge
Work commissioned for Regional Water Providers Consortium, June 1999. Final report July 2000. http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=91392
Planning for a regional Transmission and Storage strategy that includes “demand centers” i.e. the document notes that a filtration plant would be located at Powell Butte with a “demand center” could blend water from Bull Run and the Columbia River. See page 1-2 "demand centers" Powell Butte (input from Columbia River and Bull Run)
Also see page 6-2 Inter Gov. Agency Cooperative Agreement/ NO PUBLIC VOTE (recommended option) that would allow private company to operate
Initial contract amount $85,000. Additional amendments not researched.
Erik Sten was Portland’s elected representative to the Regional Water Providers Consortium Board and the official who authorized the MWH contract
Citizens for Safe Water representing Tigard, Wilsonville, Tualatin, and Sherwood citizens against drinking Willamette river water called out conflict of interest concerns involving this contract and the Willamette river treatment plant in a May 2000 letter: “ Since the same engineering firm, Montgomery Watson, was awarded the “design-build” contract for the Wilsonville treatment plant and was also commissioned to do the Regional Transmission and Storage Strategy (RTSS), we feel that bias has tainted the entire project planning.” http://www.hevanet.com/safewater/consortiumstatement.htm
v Bull Run Treatment Panel- Erik Sten Commissioner in charge
April 2001-January 1,05
Although the Bull Run Treatment Panel ended its work in May 2002, the MWH contract was nonetheless extended on January 7, 2003 after the Jan. 1, 03-contract expiration date to accommodate a revised Scope of Work and use up the remaining money. The invoice submitted October 7, 2004 was submitted with note from Lisa Obermeyer, MWH, “This is it! The end of an era (or so it seems!) Good luck moving forward” By the end of this contract Bull Run supporters were protesting the push for additionally treating our pristine Bull Run water. Bid, $546,000, award $578,000, spent per 10/04 invoice $574,790.29. Salary billed with 3.1 multiplier, which includes overhead and profit.
The Bull Run Treatment Project/ Panel was in response to proposed federal regulation LT2ESWTR (LT2). MWH provided technical services to assist in deciding the method of treatment required to meet upcoming water quality regulations. See the 2000 Infrastructure Master plan contract for recommended treatment plant strategy.
Joe Glicker President of the local office of MWH Global, previously a 14-year Water Bureau veteran (until 1994 when he went to work for Montgomery Watson) and his wife, Lisa Obermeyer, P.E. of MWH Global were the primary presenters to the Bull Run Treatment Panel. Rhodes Trussell 32 year veteran of MWH Global (national MWH, not local) was chairperson of the EPA Science Advisory Board Drinking Water Committee that oversaw the development of the proposed LT2ESWTR. Trussell was a presenter to the Bull Run Treatment Panel.
Rosemary Menard was a part of the selection committee for this contract.
v Mt. Tabor Reservoir Burial Design and Construction Oversight- Dan Saltzman Commissioner in charge
$6 million contract awarded August 2003, terminated July 30 2004.
Invoices between 9/03 and 7/04 indicate $646,672.65. MWH continued to work on burial design throughout the Independent Reservoir Panel (IRP) process with MWH providing the low-ball cost estimates for burial.
Salary billed with 3.1multiplier (i.e., 7/04 invoice, salary for 12 work hours, $664.40, total labor charged with multiplier, $2,059.64)
2004/05 PWB budget included $2 million dollars for yet another treatment plant study. PWB Capital Improvement Program financial tracking document hand written note indicates that this is a MWH contract. An April 19, 04 memo to Commissioner Saltzman from PWB Administrator Mort Anoushirivani indicates that work is deferred on choosing technology and treatment plant site until clock runs out on LT2.
NOTES: The 2003 MWH reservoir burial contract was essentially a no bid contract in that CH2Mhill did not complete the bid process in light of MWH’s extensive contractual reservoir history and in considering the costs associated with submitting a full bid.
Montgomery Watson Harza Global constructed the Wilsonville filtration plant (Willamette River) and constructed the underground tank at Powell Butte (PB1) in 1980.
*Emergency ordinances take effect immediately if passed. Non-emergency ordinances require 2 readings and a 30-day waiting period.
 There was other self-serving corporate involvement in the development of the EPA LT2 regulation. A criticism noted in the 2003 public comments by American Water Works Association addressed Calgon Carbon's involvement. Calgon Carbon held the patent for the new technology of Ultraviolet Light Radiation that most systems will now be forced to use in order to comply with LT2's source water treatment requirements. Chemical and equipment suppliers also participated in the rule development process.
2 The draft LT2 rule included a mitigation option allowing reservoirs to remain open. No data or scientific study in the Rule supports the requirement that open reservoirs be covered, buried, or additionally treated.
 MWH has been the beneficiary of a significant number of PWB design/build contracts stemming from capital improvement projects the Bureau has undertaken subsequent to MWH recommending the project.
The Core Friends' Position: These documents were presented to the Independent Review Panel as the basis of the Friends' opposition to burying the reservoirs. They cover the science, the history, and the politics behind this issue.
We are citizens concerned about Portland's open reservoirs. We treasure these landmarks that have shaped our parks, enhanced our city, and provided clean and safe drinking water for a century.
We seek a water system that maintains our superb water quality, minimizes rate impacts, and values reservoirs as part of our parks and public spaces. Most importantly, we believe that citizens should be equal partners in designing any public process that will impact their character, quality and function.
Here's some background on these key issues:
MWH Open Reservoir Contract Details- Contract # 30491
8 years, 8 amendments, $2,138,900.000
Ø 1995 Selection Committee- Dominated by 5 water bureau employees, Todd Humphrey, Mark Knudson, Dennis Kessler, Bill Elliott and Mary Ellen Collentine most of whom, if not all worked in subordinate positions to Joe Glicker (consultant project director, MWH) when he was chief engineer at the Water Bureau in the year prior to the proposal for this study.
Ø The auditor’s office speaks to this concern of selection committees being dominated by bureau employees (City’s Consultant Contracting Procedures Need to be Strengthened).
Minority and Women Business participation was estimated at 8.9% for Phase I and 40% for Phase II but was reduced to 16% at the time the Phase II contract was negotiated.
Ø MWH’s bid, Phase I was $548,000 the lowest bid. MWH’s negotiated contract total, $803,500, a 45% increase over their bid (Their competition’s highest bid $726,600. They were tied in scores with competitor, John Carollo Engineers prior to the interview).
MWH’s contract has been amended eight times over the course of 8 years. Additional work and compensation was added several times as outlined below.
Ø Phase I April 10, 1996 $803,500. Estimate noted for Phase II as reported by Water Bureau Administrator was $450,000, but the initial actual dollar amount awarded for Phase II was $774, 600. FY 95-96 and 96-97 for Phase I. Phase II in subsequent Fiscal years. Contract expires Feb.1, 1999
The auditor’s report expresses concern that some work is awarded without sufficient competition when contracts are amended for new scopes of work.
Ø Amendment 1 May 4, 1998 contract increased $183,000 for Reservoir 5 Liner Design which included preparing documents to be used for advertising the construction project.
Ø Amendment 2 June 16, 1998 contract increased $54,000 for technical support during installation of liner and $ 36,300 for evaluation of the river crossing reliability
Contract expired Feb. 1, 1999.
Ø Amendment 3 The Bureau Dep. Chief Engineer extended the contract on February 11, 99 to February 1, 2001. An initialed margin note on the 1996 contract states “ the Chief Engineer does not have authority to extend work beyond a contract deadline”.
Ø Amendment 4 September 18, 00 City redefined scope of services for element 13 of original Phase I study.
Contract expired 2nd time on February 1, 2001
The city charter provides that non-property contracts shall not exceed 5 years
Ø Amendment 5 May 29, 2001 (4 months after contract expired) Letter written asking for 6 month extension with all applicable provisions of PCC section 5.68 being waived. MWH was awarded other contracts during this time that occupied their time, thus the Water Bureau wrote that more time was needed for this contract. Contract extended to October 18, 2001
Contract expired 3rd time on October 18, 2001, renewed in February 2002.
Ø Amendment 6 February 11, 2002 Phase II (4 months after contract expired) Bureau asks for a 4 year extension. Contract increased $774,600.00 for Phase II. Increase is nearly 75% over original estimate for Phase II, $450,000.
Ø Scope of work Phase II includes Bid Phase Services- tasks include attending a pre-bid conference with prospective bidders answering bidders questions and inquires, and reviewing bids as well coordinating and conducting pre-construction conference with the selected contractor
Scope of work Phase II includes public involvement both at interim phase and the long-term storage decision-making phase. All aspects of this part of the contract did not happen.
Ø Amendment 7 June 21, 02, Scope of work was amended , but no contract amendment supporting the work was created. This Scope of Work document was provided to the public upon request, but there was no contract amendment supporting the changes in the scope of work. Reservoir activist, Floy Jones inquired as to whether or not amendment 7 existed. At that time it did not, but it was subsequently created and signed by Joe Glicker, MWH on 12/4/02 and later by the Water Bureau Chief Engineer Stan VandeBergh on 1/6/03.
A document of interest (and apparently produced) under Task III.6, Mt. Tabor Park Project Implementation Plan entitled Alternative Delivery Methods dated June 2002 appears to be a MWH document, which advocates a particular hiring method, which would place MWH in the best position for the lucrative contract involving the design and oversight of the burial of the reservoirs. They advocate a hiring method that had been used once in the past by the Bureau when their corporation was hired for a past project.
What is the relationship of this document to the tasks they were suppose to perform in the Scope of Work, Task III.6 for this project?
The hiring method ultimately used to hire for the next phase was not this method, but the result was the same.
Ø Amendment 8 approved by council March 6, 03 Reservoir study contract, Phase II increased by $267,500. The “what goes on top” PAC meeting schedule did not follow the schedule outlined in the Scope of work. Preliminary tank design reports have been produced in connection with this study contract limiting public transparency. The first of three drafts of the preliminary tank design document was produced in July 2002. This further supports concerns of bias toward awarding this contractor the next contract, which is a Tank Design/burial oversight contract.
Contract total including this 2003 amendment exceeded $2 million dollars, $2,138,900.00. This contract has been amended and extended over 8 times lasting nearly a decade.
q Walker-Macy landscape architect, subcontractor of MWH, sat at the PAC table as an ad-hoc member and guides the design process. The PAC facilitator Pam Wiley also is a subcontractor for MWH.
Although the community had been advised by the Water Bureau and Commissioner Saltzman’s office that MWH was not guaranteed the next more lucrative reservoir burial tank design and construction oversight contract, on 4/21/03 Water Bureau Public Information spokesperson, Ross Walker confirmed that MWH had been selected to receive this contract. PTE worksheet not made available to the public until contract officially awarded in August.
MWH was awarded a $6 million Tabor reservoir burial tank design/ construction oversight contract in August 2003. This contract was terminated after Portland’s Independent Review Panel supported enhanced security and deferred maintenance, rejecting reservoir burial.
MWH continued to receive compensation on the earlier 8-year study contract during most of 2004 working throughout the Reservoir Panel (IRP) process in conjunction with the panel consultant, McGuire Associates, providing all of the cost estimates for burial and alternatives. McGuire has a history of subcontracting with MWH and McGuire was the EPA LT2 FACA consultant.
Researched 2002/03, updated 2004
The City Council public decision-making process is no longer public
The decision to bury the reservoirs was "buried" within the city budget process without the public discussion obligated by land use laws.
The funding via general bonds was pursued ambiguously, without notice to known interested parties. Ratepayers did not approve of this significant burden, approaching at least $200 million without including the larger costs of an ancillary filtration project under consideration, interest on the bonds and other elements of the Water Bureau's construction water safety plan. They will be buried in concrete tanks just below the surface, with severely limited and uncertain development planned on top.
A public process regarding burial was never offered to citizens. Here's the chronological record of public understanding:
- "We need to be careful that we don't invest a lot of money quickly in solutions that feel good but don't solve the problem" (Sten, 9/22/01)
- "Long-term changes could include
capping the reservoirs..." (Oreg., 10/26/01)
- "Sten said he is thinking of ... security enhancements, [which] could include such things as better security at the City's two open reservoirs" (Oreg., 1/18/02)
- "City's Wish List to Fight Terror Hits $20 mil...What's not on list?: security upgrades proposed by Bureau such as covering reservoirs" (Oreg., 2/21/02)
- "City Considers Quick Remedy for Water Security" (ie, burial) "It won't make our water system terrorism
proof" (Oreg., Sten, 3/1/02)
After that, burial is treated as de facto, aside from formality of Council approval in May, the public left in the dark, waiting for process, for an explanation that holds water.
Then, despite being acutely aware of the intense community concern, the City authorized funding via revenue bonds without identifying the purpose of those bonds such that a reasonable person could have known that their purpose was related to the water system.
- On 12/18/02, the City Council passed Ordinance 177129, authorizing $200 million toward the burial project.
- On 4/23/03, the City Council passed Ordinance 177406, authorizing another $500 million "to finance various projects".
Once discovered, The Friends of the Reservoirs, along with Citizens for Safe and Affordable Water and other individual plaintiffs, sued the Portland City Council for underhanded use of revenue bonds as blank checks. The hearing was on November 5, 2003 before Judge Litzenberger in the Multnomah County Courthouse. The Judge should issue a ruling before Thanksgiving.
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Private contractors stand to reap huge profits
The primary contractor behind the push to bury the reservoirs is Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH). The engineer who heads the Portland division of MWH worked for 14 years for the city and its water bureau.
Here's two controversial examples of MWH's involvement with water and sewer projects.
- In Houston in October 2003, MWH was awarded a $42 million expansion of a water treatment plant, without any competing bids. They have been accused of using sub-par materials and equipment. (Houston Business Journal: City feels water pressure on treatment plant deal)
- In East Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2002, MWH was awarded a $618 million contract for overhauling a sewer system. No RFP was issued for this project. Conveniently, MWH was cozy with the head of the Dept. of Public Works. Many cried foul after the most expensive option was chosen and learning MWH was charging an above-market rate. Some city council members objected and were eventually circumvented. (Greater Baton Rouge Business Report: City sewer deal smells and Experts question city sewer deal)
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Shouldn't we bury the reservoirs to protect them from terrorism?
No. The majority of experts have concluded that it would be virtually impossible to successfully contaminate a major public water supply. Toxins are much more effective in aerosol form. There has never been a successful water system contamination in the world. Homeland Security reported in May that Oregon is a low risk for terrorist attack and, thus, will not receive Federal money (Oregonian 4/15/03 article).
The bigger threat is backflow from the privacy of a home, and is considered more likely, per Wall Street Journal report 12/28/01. In 1975, LSD poisoning of the reservoirs was a concern. Then Commissioner, Lloyd Anderson, testified at 2/19/03 hearing that the decision to bury the reservoirs went away with the war and greater priorities, as the City had no money. Our economy is worse today.
New York City is keeping their large open reservoir, despite being a terrorist-targeted city. Hillview reservoir provides water for 9 million people. Homeland security is giving New York $25 million to fight terrorist threats.
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Better water quality solutions exist
Alternatives include state of-the-art real-time monitoring being used and developed around the country. For example, researchers in New York are developing a microchip-based system that immediately alerts authorities when contaminants are dumped into a drinking water supply, based on laser monitoring.
For more information, read the Alternatives to Enhance Water Security (144k PDF)
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Majority supports not burying the reservoirs
Citywide support is strong for historic preservation and an open public process on alternatives. Broad opposition to the City is reflected in resolutions passed by neighborhood associations throughout the city, including Mt. Tabor, South Tabor, Buckman, Overlook, Concordia, Arlington Heights, & Southeast Uplift. Neighborhood Coalition. Thousands of citizens have expressed their objections in writing.
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