Scott Fernandez presents open reservoir evidence to the EPA in Washington DC.
By Nancy Tannler
Scott Fernandez, M.Sc. Biology chemistry/microbiology, is continuing to cross swords with the City of Portland over what he believes is unconscionable neglect of human health by shutting down its open air drinking water reservoirs.
Fernandez, has filed a public health lawsuit to retain Portland’s drinking water quality. He is asking that, until a formal decision has been made, all demolition and disconnection of the reservoirs be stopped.
“From a city public health aspect the whole system is broken. Toxic and carcinogenic drinking water, noxious air from industry and diesel fumes, lead in school and park water fountains, radon in the air of Portland schools, and the pollution of the Superfund site area are all cascading into one another and something needs to be done,” Fernandez said.
The reason he has doggedly stayed on this issue for over ten years is because sunlight breaks down toxic chemicals, open reservoirs naturally and efficiently off-gas radon and other particulates into the atmosphere in a safe and unconcentrated form.
Toxic and carcinogenic nitrogen-based chemicals thrive without open reservoirs. “Consequently, nitrification episodes in distribution systems occur in the dark (in covered reservoirs, pipelines, taps etc)” according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency 2002.
Portland Water Bureau acknowledges that radioactive radon is present in our drinking water, especially when we use water from the Columbia South Shore Well field. The EPA currently says there is “no safe level” of radon.
The economics of the reservoir projects is something Fernandez reminds us of too.
What started out as a projected $50 million dollar deconstruction project is now closer to $200 million with a 20-25 percent escalating cost to consider. The city has taken out large bonds that we the people will eventually pay for with unnecessarily increased water rates..
Dismantling the reservoirs is work that Fernandez argues is not necessary.
As he prepares for his day in court, he is optimistic the evidence he will present will make a difference.
Like other activists, he thinks Portland Water Bureau should have fought harder for an EPA waiver like New York has to buy time and save the reservoirs. (See SE Examiner article, Portland’s Unfiltered Water System, May 2016).
There is no political or economic benefit for Fernandez to take Portland Water Bureau and the City of Portland to court about the open reservoir and drinking water issue.
When The Southeast Examiner asked him why he was doing it, he replied, “It’s for the public health and it is the right thing to do.”