Pirate party celebrates Portland’s ‘other’ water

If you think all the water you use for bathing and drinking comes from the Bull Run Reservoir, read this. You’ll discover the underground ‘treasure’ that families who visited this pirate revelry uncovered …

Queen of the Seas Sabrina” (Sabrina Litton, of Portland Water Bureau Resource Protection and Planning) checks-in a family visiting the 2012 Aquifer Adventure.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the first time in several years, the annual pirate-themed event called the “Aquifer Adventure”, out off NE Airport Way in the Wilkes Neighborhood, didn’t get rain-soaked. Instead, the September 15 family affair was held under sunny skies.

“This is a groundwater-based event, in which we partner with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council. It’s put on for families to learn about the ‘hidden gem’ called groundwater,” Portland Water Bureau (PWB) Resource Protection and Planning Director Edward Campbell told East Portland News.

Pirate “Jennifer Steely-Heart” (actually, Portland Water Bureau Operating Engineer Jennifer Deviren) teaches about the importance of preserving our groundwater resource, as Portland Water Bureau Resource Protection and Planning Director Edward Campbell looks on.

“Groundwater is a very important drinking water resource for the City of Portland. It’s also located within the Columbia Slough Watershed,” added Campbell.

Most of our water supply does, indeed, come from the Bull Run Watershed, Campbell agreed. But the area’s secondary groundwater source, located in mid-County in the far northeast corner of outer East Portland, also plays a very important role in our drinking water system.

Guest Matthew Hersey holds Lili, and Jaimee Scheffler holds Madison, as they meet up on the trail with “Capt’n Do Good Doug” (Doug Bloem, PWB Environmental Specialist).

“And it enables us to use the Bull Run Watershed supply without having to filter it,” Campbell went on. “In the winter, when we have intense storms, those raise the turbidity levels from Bull Run, and we’re unable to use it for drinking water.”

PWB also starts the pumps running during long hot summers, to extend the life of the water available in the reservoir, he added.

Looking intently at how water permeates layers of earth is Paige Murphy.

Event teaches groundwater protection
Because of the industrial nature of the well zone, Campbell said they work closely with businesses in the “Groundwater Protection Area”, to make sure that they’re not letting chemicals escape into the earth, and potentially contaminate drinking water.

“We also ask homeowners to protect groundwater,” the water bureau official said.

“This includes limiting the use of pesticides, and insecticides, fungicides – any the kinds of chemicals that you might use outdoors that could move to both surface water and into the groundwater. We ask people to use ‘green’ alternatives.”

Going on a canoe ride in the remarkably-clean Columbia Slough is the reward for collecting “treasure beads” at each of the “Aquifer Adventure” stations.

In fact, those who attended the “Groundwater Faire” learned that dumping anything on the ground – from motor oil to cleaning products – can cause it to seep down into the aquifer, polluting drinking water.

No, pirates won’t come hunt you down, if you foul the soil above the groundwater fields – but being a good steward of the land will help provide clean drinking water for us all, on into the future.

> On our front page, “Admiral Melissa the Pearl of the Sea” (Sandoz, with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council) “orders” visitors to board a canoe.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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