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State DEQ fines Portland $40,000 for water release into Johnson Creek

(Oregon Public Broadcasting) — The state has fined the city of Portland $40,800 for discharging chlorine into Johnson Creek. The chlorine came from drinking water used to test the city's newly constructed Powell Butte reservoir.

The city is required to remove chlorine from drinking water before releasing it into Johnson Creek. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the city failed to do so 14 times last year.

Jeff Bachman, compliance and enforcement officer for Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said three of the releases contained levels of chlorine far beyond what is known to kill aquatic wildlife.

"It's toxic, so it will kill," Bachman said. "The most sensitive species are going to be the bottom of the food chain species, so it'll be the benthic organisms, critters, bugs, which the fish need to survive."

Portland Water Bureau administrator David Shaff says his agency has taken steps to prevent future violations. He says part of the problem was that the contractor building the new reservoir didn't use the right method to test chlorine levels in the water before discharging it.

Shaff explained, "We haven't made a decision on whether to appeal. I think it's likely if we have to pay any portion of the fine or the entire fine, at lease some of it will be shared responsibility with the contractor."

The city has until May 7 to pay the fine or appeal the penalty.
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