Boil water notice issued for entire city of Portland

UPDATE: The Portland Water Bureau on Saturday lifted the boil water notice for the entire city of Portland. Read more

Original story below.

PORTLAND, Ore. - The city of Portland has issued a boil water notice for all customers after state health officials detected E. coli bacteria in water samples at three locations over a three-day period.

"Until further notice, all Portland Water Bureau customers and those in the affected areas should boil all tap water used for drinking, food preparation, tooth brushing and ice for at least one minute. Ice or any beverages prepared with un-boiled tap water on or after May 20 should be discarded," the water bureau said on its website.

{>}{>}How to survive the boil water order

Officials said 670,000 people are affected by the boil water notice. It is the largest boil water notice in the city's history.

"We're painfully aware that we're going into a holiday weekend and that this is an inconvenience for people," City Commissioner Nick Fish said. "We regret that, but we're also guided by good science and regulations."

The water bureau said in three separate incidents from May 20 to May 23, repeat water samples confirmed total coliform and E. coli in drinking water samples.

The water samples that tested positive for bacteria were collected at Mt. Tabor Reservoirs 1 and 5, and at the SE 2nd Avenue and Salmon Street water sampling station.

The bureau says both reservoirs have been taken offline.

It's unclear what caused the contamination. The water bureau is investigating, but officials said at a news conference Friday afternoon that they may never know the cause.

All Portland Water Bureau customers are affected. Also affected are customers of the following water providers:

  • Burlington Water District
  • City of Gresham (North of I-84)
  • Lake Grove Water District
  • Lorna Portland Water
  • Palatine Hill Water District
  • Rockwood Water District
  • Tigard Water Service Area (including Durham, King City and Bull Mountain)
  • Valley View Water District
  • West Slope Water District

"While we believe at this time that the potential health risk is relatively small, we take any contamination seriously and are taking every precaution to protect public health," said Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff.

He also stressed that water customers shouldn't depend on home water filtration systems to treat their water.

The city of Gresham buys water from Portland, which means that all Gresham water customers north of Interstate 84 should boil their water, the city said. And According to the city, Rockwood Water People's Utility District is also affected.

Customers will be notified when they no longer have to boil their water, the bureau said. The earliest time the boil water notice could be lifted is Saturday, after the bureau receives new test results. Those test results are expected Saturday morning.

Water Bureau administrator David Shaff told KATU the bureau will know whether it can lift the boil water notice at around 11 a.m. Saturday.

"The chance of any health problems related to this water test result is low. If any problems occur, we would expect diarrhea," said Dr. Paul Lewis, Interim Tri-County Health Officer. "We monitor cases of bacterial diarrhea and will be aware of any increase following this event."

Bottled water flew from the shelves at Portland grocery stores as shoppers filled their carts.

Schools remain open

Portland Public Schools announced that schools would remain open on Friday. Students and staff were told not to use drinking fountains. District spokeswoman Christine Miles said water bottles would be delivered to students.

The Centennial School District also announced that schools would remain open Friday. But students and staff will not be able to use the drinking fountains in hallways, classrooms and offices. Centennial High School, Butler Creek and Pleasant Valley Elementary are not affected, the district said.

In the Gresham-Barlow School District, only Clear Creek Middle School is affected by the boil water notice. According to the district, it has shut down the drinking water system at that school.

Hospitals have bottled water

Providence announced that its Portland Medical Center has bottled water available for patients, employees and visitors.

OHSU has bottled water for everyone at the hospital. Employees have been told not to drink tap water or use ice.

Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center is delivering bottled water to all patients. Food service employees are not serving food that requires tap water.


As you can imagine, area restaurants are also affected and they are either modifying what they serve or are closing.

Some examples:

Stumptown Coffee announced on Twitter that it has closed all its Portland cafes until further notice.

McMenamins says its locations are open, but they are serving bottled water and cans of sodas. And they are limited in what they can serve.

Also, some Chipotle locations are closed, including the one on Northeast Weidler.

Some restaurants are also stocking up on bottled water and ice.

Brasserie in downtown Portland made three runs for ice, sodas, bottled water and even some vegetables.

Manager Sheila Scott said they ran out of money because of those emergency items they've had to buy. They're also expecting revenue to go down because of people staying in.

Other restaurants that have closed include Deschutes Brewery, The Rum Club, and the Firehouse Restaurant. Others are having drink specials, including the Double Dragon and The Park Kitchen.

Symptoms of illness

The water bureau believes the potential health risk is low but symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Cramps.
  • Nausea.
  • And headaches.

If any of these symptoms persist, you may want to seek medical advice.

Infants, young children, some of the elderly, and people with severely compromised immune systems are most at risk.

More information

Maps and additional information can be found on the Water Bureau's website or by calling 503-823-7770.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.