City of Portland issues a 'boil water notice' after positive E. coli test

City of Portland issues a 'boil water notice' after positive E. coli test »Play Video
Reservoir 3 at Washington Park as seen on Saturday, July 21, 2012. The reservoir will be drained after a positive E.coli test. It was also drained back in 2009 for the same reason. (KATU photo).

Is Your Home or Business Affected?
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Contact the City of Portland Water Bureau at (503) 823-7770 if you have questions or concerns about your water. You can check their online FAQ first to see if you can find an answer there.

Mayor Sam Adams has also been answering questions on Twitter and is urging folks who haven't yet signed up for PublicAlerts to do so to get the latest updates. And you can follow the story under the Twitter hashtag #boilwaterpdx.


PORTLAND, Ore. - E. coli was found in some of the city's drinking water, prompting a 'boil water notice.'

The bacterial contamination was discovered during a routine check of a reservoir in Washington Park and affects the west side of town. It's a big area with a lot of people but the Portland Water Bureau and health officials said they didn't want to take any chances.

"The bottom line is we're being very cautious, very conservative and we hope and we expect that we won't have anybody that becomes ill from drinking water," said David Shaff with the Portland Water Bureau.

"As a community, because so many people are exposed to public drinking water, we act very protectively because there are hundreds of thousands of people - about 130,000 households, I believe, in the impacted area," said Tri-County Public Health Officer Dr. Gary Oxman. "That's a lot of people so if there is something going on, we want to be very safe."

Microbes in E. coli contaminated water can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches or other short-term symptoms. They pose an added risk for young children and the elderly. If you drank some of the water and are experiencing symptoms, see a doctor.

Which areas are affected?

If you live in any of the following areas, you will need to boil your water effective immediately. Follow the link at the end of the list to enter your address on a searchable map.

  • Portland Water Bureau west of the Willamette River
  • Burlington Water District
  • Valley View Water District
  • Palatine Hills Water District
  • City of Tigard
  • Lake Grove Water District
  • West Slope Water District
  • SEARCHABLE MAP

Now if you live in Hillsboro and you're wondering if this affects you, the Hillsboro Water Department says no, the water there is safe. Here's the notice they sent out on Saturday:

Hillsboro Water Department customers are not affected by the Boil Water Notice released by the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) on Saturday, July 21, 2012. Hillsboro's water is safe to drink because Hillsboro customers receive all of their water from the Joint Water Commission (JWC) Treatment Plant. For more information on the treatment process, please visit the JWC website.

How can I keep my family safe?

For those affected by the boil notice, you'll need to boil your water or use bottled water until you get the all clear. That includes making sure you don't use tap water for making ice, brushing your teeth, washing your dishes or preparing your food.

If you do choose to boil your tap water, make sure you bring it to a rolling boil for one minute and let it cool before you start using it.

And finally, any ice or beverages that you prepared with tap water after July 19 should be discarded.

What's being done by the city?

The reservoir is being drained (it's a process that takes about 24 hours).

Right now the water bureau doesn't know how the water got contaminated - it could have been anything from bird or mammal feces to a dead animal in the water.

Further testing is being done and the city expects to have the results by Sunday morning.

Didn't this happen one other time?

Yes - this isn't the first time that E.coli has been found in this particular reservoir. Back in late 2009, a boil water notice was issued after a positive E.coli test and it was later determined that a seagull was the likely culprit. The reservoir had to be emptied and disinfected at that time as well.

Questions and answers from Mayor Sam Adams

The mayor spent Saturday replying to Tweets to try to answer some of the questions that folks in the city have about their drinking water. Here's a look at some of them. You can also view more on the mayor's Twitter page.