Beaverton eyes Willamette for drinking water


BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN 6) — It has been identified as the most toxic waterway in the state, but now the City of Beaverton is looking into a plan that would utilize the Willamette River for drinking water.

“I think that’s pretty gross,” Beaverton resident Chloe Mason said. “My mother-in-law picks trash out of it.”

Recently, the Department of Environmental Quality revealed toxin levels in the Willamette River pose threats to human health and aquatic life.

“It’s not a surprise that it ranks top of the charts with this toxic survey,” Kate Ross with the Willamette River Keeper previously told KOIN 6 News.

According to Ross, a big reason the Willamette tested positive for most chemicals is that it flows through some of the most largely populated areas in Oregon: Portland, Salem and Eugene, with farmland in between.

But now the City of Beaverton may join Hillsboro and the Tualatin Valley Water District in a project to draw water out of the river for treatment, before sending it to local faucets.

“Obviously safety is our number one priority as water providers,” Willamette Water Supply Deputy Director Todd Heidgerken said. “That’s what we train for and we do our planning for, and we have actually done a considerable amount of analysis since the mid-90s in monitoring the water quality.”

According to Heidgerken, a water treatment plant is already pulling water from the Willamette for residents in Wilsonville and Sherwood. He said new plans to expand access to the river’s water is an all-around positive thing.

“The Willamette River water treatment plant uses what we call a multi-barrier process,” Heidgerken said.

According to the Willamette Water Supply website, the Willamette River Water Treatment Plant began operating in April 2002, and has met every safe drinking water requirement since. But because of its reputation, some Beaverton residents are concerned about the new plan to use the river as a drinking water source.

“The mid-Willamette River at Wilsonville offers significant benefits: excellent finished water quality, redundancy, ownership and control of the supply, year-round reliability, and better value,” the Willamette Water Supply’s website said. “Water needs in Washington County are projected to double by 2050 with new supplies needed as early as 2026.”

Regardless of its reputation, others said they believe securing additional water sources for the future can only be beneficial.

“I think that expansion into a new source is a good thing,” Beaverton resident John Slingsby said.

Steps taken to make safe drinking water. (Courtesy, Willamette Water Supply website)

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