By Nancy Tannler

At a recent Lents Neighborhood Livability Association meeting, knowledgeable officials fielded questions about why your water bill was 4.46 percent higher starting in July.

Michael Jordan, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) explained that roughly two thirds of your water bill is for the sewer and stormwater run off.

The proposed budget for BES for 2018-19 is $536.4 million. This breaks down to 52% – sanitary; 31% – stormwater; 10% – system development charges; 1% – Portland Harbor; 6% – planning/land us review and fees.

The average single-family residential monthly sewer and stormwater bill will be around $73.55; an increase of 2.35% over last year.

Edward Campbell, Director of the Resource Protection and Planning, and Teresa Elliot, Chief Engineer, gave these explanations for the rate increase.

Now that the Big Pipe project is complete, BES is working to replace the old sewer that connects to this system. Many of Portland’s sewer pipes are over eighty years old.

(The Big Pipe project diverted raw sewage from flowing into the Willamette River and the Columbia Slough. It included two massive underground tunnels on both sides of the river, a pipeline along the slough and an expanded pump station to carry overflows to a North Portland treatment plant.)

Burying the Powell Butte reservoir and adding seismic upgrades cost $138 million. According to Campbell, the BES is looking to seismically upgrade all our reservoirs in the event of an earthquake. Then there is the general wear and tear from corrosion and other elements on our system.

Elliott explained about the costs of the  controversial federally mandated water treatment plan to eradicate cryptosporidium  in or drinking water system (see southeastexaminer.com/2017/08/pwb-rushes-to-build-controversial-filtration-plant).

City council opted for the big ticket option: a 30-acre filtration plant estimated to cost between $350 and $500 million that will require an 8.7% increase for ratepayers over the next several years.

The Portland Harbor Superfund Charge has been included since 2001 when the city began participation in the ongoing federal superfund investigation in the Willamette River (see southeastexaminer.com/2016/03/proposed-cleanup-plan-for-superfund-site).

The actual water part of the water bill is charged at the single rate of $4.499 per “unit” or ccf (one hundred cubic feet of water/ one ccf = 748 gallons).

Campbell also explained that a portion of the revenue they receive is used to help people who can’t afford to pay. There are several different financial assistance programs available that can  help reducing the cost of your bill by 30 – 80%.

To find out more, contact 503.823.7770 or pwbcustomerservice@portlandoregon.gov.