4th Blog: The Environmental Regulations in Oregon, USA

One of the purposes of the YSEALI program is to know the differences of different countries culture, personality, laws and its regulations. Considering that USA has an stringent rule, during my first few weeks of deployment here in Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), what I try to figure out is how the water policies and regulations here in Eugene Oregon differs to Philippines.

How Drinking Water is regulated?

In the Philippines, we have the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water, it is stated in this standard the parameters that needs to comply by the water utility companies in order to make the water potable. This is being established by the Department of Health through the Republic Act No. 9275 which is also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act 2007.

Whereas, in United States, there are two (2) water quality standards that needed to comply: the federal and state water regulations. The US drinking water is being regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) while in state level (specific in Oregon) is being administered and enforced by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) through the Oregon Drinking Water Quality Act of 1981.

Jar Testing is a conventional method of simulating the right amount of chemical dosing in order to treat the water. This is being used both in the water treatment plants of Philippines and United States.

In regards to water quality, Oregon USA is much better than in Manila Philippines. One basic example is the Turbidity. Turbidity is the parameters where you measure the presence of suspended particles in the water. If the turbidity of the water is high, it means the water is not healthy.

The picture at the water treatment plant intake in McKienzie River showing how the water is crystal clear and has a sufficient volume.

The pictures below show the difference of the water quality during normal conditions and during rainy season in one of the raw water sources of Metro Manila:

How Watershed is being protected?

It is saddened me when I heard that most of the forest land in the southwestern part of USA experienced wildfires due to natural occurrence caused by very dry conditions and human errors. However, in Oregon, they are rarely experienced wildfires due to the mostly wet conditions of the whole states.

However, what struck me is: Tree Cutting/ Logging is LEGAL in Oregon. In some forest areas owned by private companies, the Oregon states allowing them to cut trees for export. You will notice the number of trucks full of cut trees while you are at the road.

The remnants of the tree cutting activities in one of the hiking site at Portland, Oregon.
Cut trees are piled in the river

In contrary, tree cutting/ logging in the Philippines is ILLEGAL. Even if the tree is within your backyard, you still need to acquire the tree cutting permit at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Forest Management Bureau (DENR-FMB) before you will allow to cut tree. As part of the process, the DENR-FMB needs to inspect the tree first if it is for cutting or for balling. Then, you need to replace the trees with number of seedlings (1 tree: 100 seedlings); the type of seedlings shall be dictated by the DENR-FMB.

But both Philippines and USA are strictly promoting the watershed protection. Different stakeholders and users are meeting in order to strategize on how to protect their water source. Later this week, I have a great pleasure to be able to witness how the Oregonians prepare a secure, safe, and resilient water future for all during the “Oregon’s 100-Year Water Vision” workshop held at Linn-Benton Community College, Albany Oregon attended by State & County agencies, agri-industries, irrigation, water districts, NGOs, universities and different water agencies.

Many areas of Oregon are known for clean and reliable water source since it is located in a rainforest and water infrastructures were built in 19th century to effectively move water from its source to where it is. However, it is now being stressed due to:

  • climate change,
  • natural water infrastructures were underinvestment, and
  • growing population and development.

The 100-Year vision is being rolled up to have a secure, safe, accessible, resilient and healthy water for the current and future generations while supporting economic vitality and enjoying life in a quality environment.

How the Oregonians prepare the Water Resiliency Plan?

Since the regulation varies on each states, the Oregon State Legislature directed all the facilities to prepare the Oregon Resiliency Plan to encourage the decision makers to be prepared in case of the Big One (high magnitude of earthquake). Given that water is the main basic necessity of all, continuity of water supply during this natural disaster are compulsory. To prepare for this, EWEB hired a consultant to do the structural stability study of all the water facilities such as the Hayden Bridge Water Treatment Plant, main transmission line, water distribution pipeline, pump stations and water reservoir. Due to the old age of the Water Treatment Plant, it is recommended to have it retrofitted and install additional columns at the sedimentation and filtration basin to make it earthquake resilient.

Also, new technologies were used at the transmission pipelines by replacing it with highly functional joints such as earthquake resilient restrained joints, in order to keep up the shaking of the land and to mitigate the pipeline destruction and leakage.

Ductile iron pipes with excellent strength, durability and corrosion resistance used for the earthquake resilient water transmission pipeline.

Furthermore, earlier this week, we went to McKinzie river in Oregon and had a petroleum spill drill in that river, it was attended by different government and private stakeholders in Oregon state, headed by EWEB. The drill aims to teach all the attendees to respond and to contain the situation in the event of chemical leaks in the sole source of raw water in Eugene Oregon.

All stakeholders from state and county participated the drill.

And to continuously provide water during natural calamities, EWEB also acquire a mobile water treatment plant that can treat 144,000 gallons of freshwater per day.

Newly acquired Portable Water Treatment Plant.

Preparedness is the only way we can combat a natural and man-made disaster. Risk management is really important for the public utility companies, doing this will minimize or even eliminate possible risk and hazard during actual incident.

-Patrick

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