The Random Post (Spring Fever) – 4.11.21

This is just a slice… I love this County! Spring fever! There is stuff happening… HOWEVER we’ve got to keep our COVID safety protocol and best practices up folks – Masks, Distance, Keep Clean. We are not out of the woods yet! GET VACCINATED. Some useful facts: + On April 19th everyone in Oregon will be eligible to get the vaccine! + You do NOT need to be a U.S. citizen to get the vaccine. + Getting the vaccine will NOT affect your immigration status or count as a public charge. + You do not need to have or provide a social security number. If a form or an appointment asks for one, write in 000-00-0000. +You do not need to have identification or other documentation to receive a vaccine.

On April 19th everyone in Oregon will be eligible to get the vaccine! Or you can call the Siletz Community Health Clinic now: 541-444-9636

North County Stuff

The Lincoln City Chamber’s Mayor Candidate Forum (4.13.21 – 12PM): Who will be Lincoln City’s next Mayor? This will be broadcast on Zoom. You’ll need to email the Chamber to get the Zoom information.  My hope is that this we be recorded and posted online. Ultimately you are going to VOTE right? Investigate. Your vote matters!

City of Lincoln City Website Redevelopment Survey (Survey open until 4.16.21 – 4:30PM): My residence is in Newport. Why would this matter to me? I receive calls when I am at work by citizens and visitors who are trying to problem solve situations that involve interacting with the City of Lincoln City government services. Websites are a digital portal/mirror for the physical services provided by an organization. Help the City build it better so you can find the information you need. It’s quick and important survey.

Good websites matter. I appreciate the City of Lincoln City is asking for community input. Take a moment and help them understand the type of functionality and the nature of information you desire most.

The GREAT GARAGE SALE! (April 16,17,18 – 10AM to 5PM): Last year we found some GOOD stuff. This is the best slam dunk bargain hunting experience in all the land. If your goanna sell some stuff – register your location and goodies – I want to know!

North Lincoln Sanitary Service’s Annual City Clean Up will happen the week following the Great Oregon Coast Garage Sale. April 20th-23rd. Call by April 19th to be placed on the route. 541-994-5555.

East County Stuff

Port of Toledo PORT TALK (4.22.21 – 12PM): Exciting developments continue at the Port of Toledo. Another Zoom opportunity to learn about the economic development and opportunities in the maritime industry with an East County H20 feel.

+Hear first-hand how the Port of Toledo has grown to become an important economic driver for the Oregon Coast Maritime Industry. +Learn about Hatfield Marine Science Center iLab’s partnership with Oregon RAIN to grow Oregon’s Blue Economy. +Participate in discussions about how to solve current challenges among Oregon’s ports.

I would also add that Oregon RAIN has a job opening: Resiliency Program Director . Port of Toledo’s Wooden Boat Show is an annual event held on the 3rd weekend of August.

Phantom Galleries Grand Opening (4.17.21 – 3PM to 5PM): This is super cool! I am really looking forward to seeing the installations on main street. If you have not been to Toledo in awhile – here is a reason to experience some “valley” weather and remember what “main street” IS and CAN be for a community, Arts Revitalization of Toledo is launching this program with a grand opening outside Toledo City Hall. What is it? Phantom Galleries are small, temporary art galleries created in vacant storefronts that allow visitors to enjoy the works of local and regional artists in a COVID-safe environment. Read all about it… Oregon Coast Today, thank you.

Central County Stuff

Low Tide Learning – Survival Foods (4.24.21 – 3:45PM): Are you curious about what lives below the tides? Yes. Want to know what’s safe to eat in an emergency situation (or a fun dinner party)? Yes. Low Tide Learning returns! I am not sure how many slots are left. The Newport Parks and Recreation FB page says this opportunity is limited to 10 people. It does not appear to be closed (at this time) on their events page.

Can we find our dinner? I hope so… I’ve head there are up to 40+ edible seaweeds on the Oregon Coast… Anticipation!

I am super stoked for this one! I am hoping that ocean foraging identification is a little easier than its land-based counterpart. Not making the best progress on land. Although, we have kicked around the idea of taking a guided foraging tour with Northwest Ecotours & Guide Service to accelerate our learning curve.

Big Picture Stuff

Many years ago, I participated in the growth of Lincoln County Community Rights.  During that time the group’s objective was banning aerial spraying.  It successfully created a citizens’ initiative to ban aerial spraying in Lincoln County. The rest is complicated… While I don’t currently participate in its local planning and projects, I do support many aspects of what the group is trying to accomplish.

How do we understand our relationship with the natural world? Indigenous peoples have a wonderful perspective that I believe we can learn from. Let us reconcile and meditate upon this…

In coordination with Oregon Community Rights Network and CELDF anyone can join the “Webinar Wednesday” panel discussions. This week is “Protecting Mother Earth: The history, legacy, and possibilities as experienced by Native Americans” the invitation notes “Our settler view of life is very different.  We have learned we can be  ‘owners’ of lands and living beings, where ‘resources’ are to be used, abused, and harmed in the service of incessant wanting of more, ignoring the justice issues of those who live in different ways.  We have much to learn if we are to find collaboration, respect and willingness to do what’s necessary for the care of our home planet as we move ever closer to extinction.”

Ok. So I’ve hyped myself and you on some of the cool shit happening. It’s all good.. yet, “The Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) has joined Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an international initiative that supports tourism businesses, organizations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce carbon emissions as per the advice from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to cut global carbon emissions to 55% below 2017 levels by 2030. OCVA will be exploring voluntary, private sector solutions to this complex and global issue.”

I’ve asked Reed to read… Mary DeMocker’s book presents some good ideas. Honestly, we just don’t implement enough of them and it worries me greatly.

When I reflect and investigate the action steps needed – I appreciate that OCVA has defined specific actions with which to move forward. I feel somewhat paralyzed on this issue. But, I know that doing nothing is going to result in no thing. What we are doing at home is implementing simple but important actions to reduce our carbon footprint. We are eliminating purchases with packaging that goes straight to the land fill. And asking each other how badly we need this stuff. Composting is helping. We have realized our area hauler allows for compostable items that would otherwise have been “garbage”.  Importantly, we are talking about tangible things we can do now.

Water Safety & Feasibility in a Community Neighborhood

“Access to safe drinking water is essential to human health. Each person on Earth requires at least 20 to 50 liters of clean, safe water a day for drinking, cooking and simply keeping themselves clean.” – Oregon Health Authority

In Oregon, many public water systems are required to treat, disinfect and monitor water quality for their customers. A public water treatment system is well designed and employs trained technicians to test and maintain water quality. I am one of these technicians.

Working the night shift in the treatment plant. Water production in our neighborhood is typically dictated by our clean reservoir’s tank level. We like to keep at least a 1/2 full tank at all times. I work full time… So, the night time is the right time.

The realtor had given us the access code to what would eventually be our first opportunity at home ownership.  My stepfather and I we’re looking at the empty shell. I remember turning on the water at the kitchen sink. I thought nothing of it other than it smelled a little like trees and forest. We walked around the yard impressed with the view. The eastern neighbor strolled up the driveway. His name was Marty. He had an easy-going personality and a good energy about him. The conversation evolved into one about the water. The community’s water. He asked us if we would like a tour.

Our first stop was the raw water reservoir which was bubbling in the middle. Next, we stopped at the clean water reservoir: we stared up at the tank. It was a small version of bigger tanks I had seen over the years. Finally, we explored the treatment building. Inside a large metal tank that contained dividers was fed by pipes and surrounded with pumps, electronic meters and levers.  More specific recollections are vague. It was a nice tour that meant very little to me at the time. The water ran in the house. The house had a view. The price was in our reach.  Thirty-three days later we began moving in. Our first home .

The clean water reservoir serving Bay Hills Water Association. The Association is run by a water board of community members. The service area encompasses slightly less than 6 acres located on a steep hillside. Our community is entirely residential.

My recollection of the tour is one that has reoccurred several times in the last month. Next to me, on my desk is a Water Feasibility Study.  Our water association has been fortunate to have received a grant that made this feasibility study possible. “Work under this contract is funded by the federal Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund through Business Oregon and a partnership of local and/or private funds”.  It’s a draft version.  I need to read it over and provide comments and feedback in preparation of the final version. The study foreshadows capital improvement plans, sources of funding and outlines our system infrastructure. 

Our association board, of which I am a member, also needs to review the material and deliberate at our annual meeting. We’ve got many things to consider. Not all of them pleasant. We will likely need to raise user rates. Our capability to keep making safe water has been more difficult this winter.  Gravity aids the delivery of water to nineteen homes. Our little community must begin looking into the future. Climate change is showing us her teeth: our raw water reservoir is not turning over at the rate needed. The turbidity (the quality of being cloudy, opaque, or thick with suspended matter) is not dropping like it has in previous winters. Treating the water has become more laborious and difficult; we need more rainfall to replenish the water contained by the dam.

Calibrating our pH meter is SOP on each water treatment session. Excessive levels of lead and copper are harmful. We observe rules that exist to help limit exposure. Protection is provided by limiting the corrosivity of the water sent to the distribution system. Keeping the pH at 7.0 is the target.

Drinking water regulations were established in 1974 with the signing of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SWDA). This act and subsequent regulations were the first to apply to all public water systems in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was authorized to set standards and implement the act. With the enactment of the Oregon Quality Drinking Water Act in 1981, the State of Oregon accepted primary enforcement responsibility for all drinking water regulations in the State. (*)

As a water technician I am required to ensure these standards are followed and implemented. We regulate contaminants which present health risks that are known, or are likely, to occur in our drinking water supply. My duties are not terribly difficult to execute. But, it did take a while to understand the process. In the beginning, I watched my cohorts as they went through our procedures and explained their thinking. Several sessions later and I was on my own. Over the years, I’ve had a few refreshers.  I vaguely recall what I learned in an eight hour class with State of Oregon Health Department. My process is one that’s more of reflex than actual technical knowledge.   That’s always bothered me a little because when I run into problems, I feel less adept at troubleshooting solutions. 

The good news is the plant will simply not run if we don’t hit our State required numbers: we can manually override these systems, however. In years past, I am told that water quality had its horrendous moments. During those periods – it was likely unsafe to drink. It looked and smelled awful and discolored laundry.  Fortunately, around this time, a lovely couple moved into the neighborhood and heralded what I call the golden age of Bay Hills Water Association. Their competency, knowledge and interest brought our system into its current status:  we are compliant with State requirements and produce a decent product.  Complaints are uncommon.

If water turbidity reaches or exceeds 0.30 our treatment plant shuts off. It’s a Pacific Keystone (Key-Tech HTT 20) installed in 1983 – featuring five stages of treatment: 1) Chemical Pretreatment 2) Coagulation 3) Settling 4) Filtration 5) Disinfection .

Hikers and hunters know that water from rivers, lakes, ponds and streams can contain bacteria, parasites, viruses and other possible contaminants.  Fecal coliform bacteria, Giardia and Cryptosporidium are the big offenders. What I’ve since learned, and at times is problematic in our efforts, is the presence of disinfectant byproducts (DBPs). When chemical disinfectants such as chlorine are used – residual chemicals may emerge. These compounds are called Trihalomethanes (TTHMs). They result from the reaction of chlorine or bromine with organic matter present in the water being treated. At elevated levels, THMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes. (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

In the US, we attempt to define numerical thresholds for negative health outcomes. The EPA refers to this as the maximum contaminate level (MCL). As long as these thresholds are not passed, we generally proceed with a sense of safety. In accordance with Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) and with the assistance of the Oregon Health Department, Bay Hills Water Association both monitors, mitigates, tests and reports for the presence of Disinfectant Byproducts (DBPs).

We have both digital and analog recordation of turbidity trends throughout the treatment process. The analog provides the best view at a glance. Note the roller coaster ride over time (red line). We prefer a less exciting experience. Spikes in the graph at not preferred.

Generally, we do pretty well. Most of year we do not test positive for DBPs. Our most difficult months are August and September when our raw water reservoir has the least turnover.  The water is dirtier.  More sediment means using more chlorine.  Using more chlorine increases the production of Trihalomethanes. More Trihalomethanes increases the health risks.  Cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes are a known result  (Oregon Department of Human Services).

Imagine how the world has changed since the discovery and use of chlorination. “Chlorination is the most widely used disinfectant, both in centralized water distribution systems and for point-of use treatment in individual households. Its effectiveness against a wide spectrum of disease-causing organisms, relatively low cost and high reliability contribute to its popularity.” – The World Chlorine Council (a global network of national and regional trade associations and their member companies representing the chlorine and chlorinated products industries.) Even though they are an industry advocate they to recognize the risks.

As water enters the steel tank pumps squirt small amounts of chlorine, coagulant and soda ash into the vessel. Water at this time is “filtered to waste”. Micro adjustments are made in real time unit the desired numbers are achieved. Then, we pull the lever and direct the water into the reservoir.

As one of three water technicians, ten days out of the month, I am on duty.  We like to keep our 26,000 gallon “clean” water reservoir no less than half full. Should we have a leak or a fire it allows us some breathing room – but not much. Water disinfection technology has changed very little. Our system uses chlorine to mitigate the above-mentioned contaminants, soda ash to control pH, a coagulant to clump together particulates, and a carbon filter bed as a final trap before the treated water is pumped to storage.

I am paid fifteen dollars an hour. In my mind it is largely a volunteer effort.  I can make more money doing other types of work. Being paid a modest fee reduces the cost to my household and the nineteen other metered homes who make up the Bay Hills consumers pool. Users are billed a base rate of $65 per month. Our consumption charge is $15/1,000 gal. Volunteer workers will receive a $20 month discount.

Our water feasibility study is an important document foreshadowing priority projects and other recommended improvements. The “Priority 1 Project” details a capital improvement project that addresses our current raw water turnover dilemma.  The study also details some improvements in the treatment plant that would potentially reduce disinfectant byproducts.  The cost estimate is roughly $410,000 ($21,000 per household).  This pathway assumes a continued supply of fresh rainwater to our watershed.   If climate change continues and annual rainfall lessens, we’ll need to take other actions. It’s concerning.  At least we have a road map to the future.  I am curious and hopeful that our association board can work together, find consensus and take action.

Big simple buttons. I also enjoy big, simple, knobs and switches on my vintage stereo equipment. Unlike a smart phone the options are straight forward. As a treatment technician I look forward to the moment I can press “auto”. That usually means I can return to my family in the comfort of home.

This may be where my particular skill as a communicator comes into play. This essay is my first effort to describe in words the nature of our situation. We’ll need to distill (no pun intended) our options, analyze alternatives and present these to the community.  Our path forward needs to ensure clean drinking water and the viability of our water system into the future. A house without water is not a house that looks desirable to a new buyer. A house without water is not one that is likely to be lived in.

Our annual community meeting (surprise, surprise) is rarely attended. Nor are our board meetings which are both publicized and open for participation. In my observation we have not engaged in any meaningful outreach that motivates participatory feedback. We’ve been status quo with a hint of wishful thinking.  We’ve got some work ahead of us. Nevertheless, there’s nothing quite like “increased rates” for getting the community fired up. And, God forbid, if water should not appear at the tap. That would certainly cause the phone to start ringing!

Soda ash batch mixer. Soda ash is added to increase the pH and alkalinity. The majority of our infrastructure was established in 1983. State of Oregon requires a water distribution system maintain a pressure of 20 psi under all conditions at all service connections.

Over the years, living here, I’ve been inspired to explore many other lines of inquiry in regard providing water to our home.  The water technician role has opened my mind to thinking about what really constitutes “clean” water.  I’ve got some models of how our home can get off the grid.  Living on the Bay road has opened my mind to the concepts of water scarcity, climate change, and the fact that most “developed” communities don’t utilize grey water mindfully.  It is nonsensical to use treated water for flushing the toilet and watering the yard. In fact, it may have bigger and scarier implications for disinfectant byproducts on a scale that’s ironically disturbing. Living here has compelled me to think about alternatives in a way I may never have had to if we lived in the City, with the strength of numbers in a larger municipal infrastructure.

When water runs at the tap – we are happy. Long showers sooth the mind and body. It’s easy to ignore the implications of wastefulness and life without our most precious resource.

Mid-Coast Water Planning Partnership. What does local/regional planning and coordination look like? Why is water planning needed on the coast? The Mid-Coast needs reliable water supplies. Although the mid-coast receives ~70 inches of rainfall annually, local communities have struggled to meet water demands in recent years. A 2008 study found that, given current supplies and infrastructure, water suppliers could have insufficient supplies by as early as 2020.

Since we moved into our home I’ve spent many hours watching water documentaries, imagining off the grid setups and contemplating many things H2O. I’m grateful for how our little community has challenged me to process water – both literally and figuratively!

During this round of research I stumbled upon a couple of videos that were very intriguing and underscore the importance of water in the big picture. The first is Water, Cells, and Life | Dr. Gerald Pollack. He presented his finding at a TED Talk in 2016. “So your muscle, or whatever cell, is not working properly if it doesn’t have EZ water. Of course, if you have some EZ water, then it functions, but not quite as well as if you have a full complement of EZ water. You have potential energy from the EZ, which drives the work of the cell.”

This excerpt is just part of a fascinating analysis of the importance of water in cells functions. The analysis begs further inquiry into the quality of that water. Really cool. It underscores why I feel that blending vegetables has a profound effect on my health. I’ve noticed when I’m blending that I drink less water. Yet, I find myself peeing quite a bit. More so, than when drinking the same amount of water (16 ounces of blend vs. to 16 ounces of water). It’s the EZ. I just never had a scientific explanation for what I’ve experienced. Super!

What does water actually do in the formula for life? Water scientist and biomedical engineer Gerald Pollack shares new information and ideas about simple things we can do to charge up our human cells faster than our cell phones. The report from his lab will surprise you !

The video below demonstrated “The bridge between water and life | Dr. Adam D. Wexler. Water is essential to life, to our health, and the stability of our world. Yet a complete scientific description of the material itself eludes us. Don’t you just love TED?! This is a remarkable video of one man’s journey to understand the significance of water. There are some interesting things happening here. You should let this one soak in. No pun intended, again. We are very literally recycling one of our life’s essence paradigm shift, blow your mind if your let it, concepts. Wexler’s inquiry begins with his practice of craniosacral therapy and it’s mysterious benefit. Eventually, leads him to water.

What In The Bleep Do We Actually Know About Water?

Stay thirsty my friends!

* Much sourcing for this essay was provided by our draft “Water Feasibility Study” (December 2019). HBH Consulting Engineers out of Newberg completed the work with assistance, technical and historical data from Bay Hills Water Association. Special recognition to John and Linda MacKown for their tireless efforts to make water in our community not only accessible but to the standards set by the State of Oregon. They are true champions in our neighborhood with commendable ethics and compassion for their neighbors. There are others, too. Our entire Board is the most active. A few others contribute volunteer hours to keep water running at the tap. XOXO.