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Portland issues 'boil water before use' alert

Drinking water in Portland, Oregon contains E.coli and residents are being told to boil their water before use.
Drinking water in Portland, Oregon contains E.coli and residents are being told to boil their water before use.

According to a city-wide notice for all Portland residents, drinking water must be boiled before consumed. The State of Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program sent out the following alert:

The State of Oregon health Authority’s Drinking Water Program has required the City of Portland to issue a Boil Water Notice for all Portland Water Bureau customers and some regional water providers.

Until further notice, all Portland Water Bureau customers and those in the affected areas should boil all tap water used for drinking, food preparation, tooth brushing and ice for at least one minute. Ice or any beverages prepared with un-boiled tap water on or after May 20 should be discarded. Detailed maps, fact sheets and additional information can be found on the Water Bureau’s website at or by calling Customer Service at 503-823-7770.

The notice stated further that there were three separate water samples taken from the drinking water reservoir from May 20 to May 23 and all three times the presence of total coliform and E. coli surfaced. These samples were removed from the water of Mt. Tabor Reservoirs 1 and 5 and at the SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street water sampling station. The reservoirs were shut off from the water system that delivers water to customers.

Portland City officials will conduct a press conference at noon today at the City of Portland Emergency Coordination Center, located at 9911 SE Bush Street.

Portland Water Bureau customers are under the boil notice, but the following list of water providers also fall under the category of having tainted water:

  • Burlington Water District
  • City of Gresham (North of I-84)
  • Lake Grove Water District
  • Lorna Portland Water
  • Palatine Hill Water District
  • Tigard Water Service Area, including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain
  • Valley View Water District
  • West Slope Water District

At this time, the water bureau believes the health risk is fairly small, although it is not being taken lightly. Every precaution is used to protect the public from any health risks that may be caused by ingesting the water.

The water bureau will determine when the water is safe to drink once again and will announce the findings from water tests. Customers will be notified when it’s safe to drink water without using the boiling process. The water bureau is working with the Multnomah County Health Department to ensure health information is provided.

During the testing process, it is not unusual for one test out of 240 routine monthly samples are taken. Each of the tests to locate bacteria in water takes around 18 hours. Once the initial bacterial test is conducted and bacteria is found in drinking water, it is confirmed by several other tests. If the detection is confirmed, the notice to the public is released.

There are several reasons city drinking water can become contaminated. There can be a loss of water pressure or a pipe can burst along the system. Conditions such as these expose the drinking water to outside elements and can collect bacteria in these cases. The Portland Water Bureau is conducting an investigation to locate and eradicate the cause of the water contamination, although there have been cases where the actual cause has not been determined.

Customers can find more information about the notice and about water contamination through the water bureau website. For more information, customers can contact the Portland Water Bureau Customer Service via phone at 503-823-7770.

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