PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — The location of the Portland Water Bureau’s plant to filter Bull Run water continues to be controversial.

The filtration plant, which has been approved by the Portland City Council, will be located on rural land in Multnomah County near Boring that is owned by the water bureau. The access roads are in Clackamas County. The project has long been opposed by nearby residents who believe the construction and continuing traffic to and from the plant conflicts with the rural area.

Now the Gresham-Barlow District School Board has passed a resolution opposing the project, citing ongoing safety concerns about increased plant-related traffic in the area, including the threat to school children. The resolution was supported by the Pleasant Home Community Association and Cottrell CPO, a government community engagement organization.

The location of the Portland Water Bureau filtration plant in rural Clackamas County. (Courtesy: Portland Water Bureau)
The location of the Portland Water Bureau filtration plant in rural Clackamas County. (Courtesy: Portland Water Bureau)

The resolution said the bureau has not responded to numerous safety concerns raised by the school district. It passed by a vote of 4 to 0 on Wednesday, March 1, with one member absent and two vacancies on the board.

According to the resolution, “the district has not been made aware of any specific plans to mitigate the traffic concerns raised by the project.”

“The safety of our students is always a priority in our district. We will never do anything that would compromise their access to learning or well-being,” board chair Dr. Mayra L. Gómez said in response to a request for comment from the Pamplin Media Group.

KOIN 6 News is a media partner with the Pamplin Media Group

The bureau said it was not aware the resolution was on the agenda until being contacted by the Pamplin Media Group on the day of the meeting. It submitted written testimony opposing the resolution. Bureau director Gabriel Solmer subsequently released the following statement to the Pamplin Media Group:

“Ensuring safe travel for the community and for children to and from schools during and after construction is an extremely high priority for the Portland Water Bureau. To that end, the Portland Water Bureau has been actively engaging with the community, including the Gresham-Barlow School District and district transportation provider, since the inception of the federally mandated filtration project. We will continue to do so throughout the life of the project and beyond. The Portland Water Bureau provides clean, safe drinking water to families served by the school district and the filtration project will ensure our ability to continue doing so for generations to come.”

In addition, Commissioner Mingus Mapps, who oversees the bureau, said, “My goal is for every family that receives water from the Portland Water Bureau to have access to safe, affordable and reliable drinking water. I support the Water Bureau’s efforts to work with communities affected by the federally mandated filtration project.”

The filtration plant is being built to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to remove potentially deadly Cryptosporidium from the Bull Run Reservoir water that serves Portland and much of the surrounding area. Although exposing the water to UV light would meet the requirement, the plant is also being designed to remove sediments from the water, including mud stirred up by heavy rains and ash fall from large fires in the Bull Run Watershed.

The project is being built in conjunction with a nearby facility intended to reduce lead in Portland water pipes. The current estimated cost of the Bull Run Treatment Projects is $1.49 billion. It includes direct project costs, indirect costs, inflation, bond reserves, interest costs, and a project contingency.

The bureau expects to break ground this fall on the filtration plant. It has submitted land use applications to both Multnomah and Clackamas counties that are being reviewed. The bureau said expects to have a decision from Clackamas County this spring and from Multnomah County later this summer.

The bureau is planning for the filtration project to be substantially complete and begin delivering filtered Bull Run water by Sept. 30, 2027.