Baker City Crypto Conundrum

Baker City, Oregon has been dealing with a boil water order after several positive cryptosporidium results.

Here is what citizen Chris Christie has to say on the matter...

The City of Baker City released another drinking water warning yesterday which confirms that Cryptosporidium is in the water supply. They state that "Water samples taken on July 31 were positive for Cryptosporidium in water from the watershed supply and treated water (distribution system)."

How much Crypto is in the water supply? Are the concentrations they found significantly high, or rather low? What were the sources and what are the locations where positive samples were taken? Why are they not releasing the information about the locations and concentrations? Where is the transparency that people so cherish but see so little of?

When governments don't release available information to the public, when there is no good reason not to release it, it makes people think they are trying to hide something. Why would they want to cover-up that information? People are still wondering why the city didn't tell us the details of how positive Crypto results were kept from the public and the Council for over a year in 2010 and 2011. No one has been held accountable publicly other than Mike Kee taking it upon himself, which only hides the actual details and the identity of those actually responsible.

I sent an email to City Manager Mike Kee and Public Works Director Michelle Owen this Morning asking for the locations and concentrations for the positive samples. I have not yet received a response.

[Update 1:52PM: Since I posted this I see that Mike Kee has selectively released the information I asked for earlier (10 AM) today to their favored commercial media information massage outlet, the Herald, but neither Kee nor Michelle Owen has given this citizen blogger the courtesy of a response. They prefer to give it first to a corporation. (The Herald is owned by a corporation, Western Communications, Inc.) The city did not even post the information on our own city website before releasing it to the Herald (and still hasn't). Par for the course. The Herald seems to be updating as I write now. Bottom line: it was found in Goodrich but they didn't test other possible watershed sources, which they say they are now doing]

It is worth noting that in the video, Mike Kee reminds the Council, some of whom have been urging a go slow approach, that:

"...we want to do everything we can to keep this water safe, that we are providing for our public, so anything we can do to move forward with this process, I think we should. Can we go slow and avoid spending money? Yes we can, but we need to keep moving forward."


I take that as a bit of push-back from the City Manager on the go-slow approach [even though they didn't follow through with additional testing]. It is also worth noting that in 2009, the price for the UV treatment was estimated to be only $2.5 million, and that compliance was required by October 2013 (Since delayed until 2016). Membrane filtration, in 2009, was estimated to cost about $17.7 M and cost over 25 times as much as UV to operate. By 2012, the estimated cost for UV treatment was $1.84M to $3.14M. While a go-fast approach (i.e., install some approved effective treatment ASAP--before the deadline) is almost unheard of for public safety compliance, it could have saved us from the illnesses, economic hit, and repuational loss, that we are now experiencing.

Also on the Herald, one "Loran Joseph" states that:

The exposure was estimated to have occurred as late as July 26th. With a minimum 2 days before symptoms occur, plus lab test return time, the city couldn't have been informed of this more than a day before this article was released. The city is being very diligent.


I agree that the city has been diligent since the time they were told of the infected citizens by the County Health Department. The testing issue is different though.

The city has said that they started using water from Goodrich Reservoir on the 15th. If that is a source of the Crypto [turns out it was confirmed as a source on 8/4/13], then exposure for citizens drinking water out of the tap could, and likely did, begin within one or two days, i.e., by the 17th, and certainly no later than the 18th. The city has not told us whether Goodrich Reservoir is a source of the Crypto, although I was told by Mike Kee on the 31st that they were going to collect goat droppings for testing. If Goodrich was confirmed as a source [it has been confirmed 8/4/13], then they could have confirmed the presence of Crypto, before using the water, by testing it a week prior to opening. (That is one reason the city needs to tell us where the source or sources of contamination were.)

Given the earlier detection of Crypto, instead of relying on the wishful thinking of Councilors about our "safe" water supply, and despite the lack of a requirement, the city should have been testing the water on a regular basis after the first round of testing ended. I believe the episode points to regulatory failure by the state and federal governments, and a lack of prudence by city officials and the Council.

Competence, foresight and prudence is what the Council gets elected for and what city staff gets paid for. If we continue to elect Councils whose primary concern is Main Street area businesses and the needs of the well off, and if the city is hiring employees according to the "Baker Buddy System" instead of on appropriate education and merit, and if they are going to continue to insist on remaining unaccountable, then we citizens will suffer continuing crises, elite theft, and inefficient government.

 

Information from Baker County Blog used by permission

Answering questions about the boil water notice for Baker City