As the State Turns

stateturnssymbolPortland Water Woes
Let’s think about something for a second: our tap water. Thousands of years ago humans started gathering in settlements that began to require large-scale solutions for water. Without all sorts of cool modern inventions like ultraviolet light filters and space-based laser cannons, city folk were basically drinking their own poop water for years. I’ve seen Spartacus… there’s no way the “stick water” (if you know what I mean) didn’t find its way back into a fountain or something. There’s toxins, there’s rust, there’s creepy-crawly-a*s protozoa and amoebas waiting to lay eggs in your brain. There’s even mutagenic ooze, such as what created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And if Michael Bay will have us believe his version is accurate, them sh*ts is Nasty with a capital N. They’re also Ninja with a capital N, but, damn you, stop distracting me.

Anyway, fast-forward from Roman times circa 10 million years ago all the way to Portland, Oregon 2016. Portland has a lead problem. In fact, it is the largest system of drinking water in the US to test high for lead in three years. Though only a small portion of the infrastructure still actually uses lead pipes, Portland has adopted a hands-off approach to the normal rounds of chemical treatment to reduce lead concentrations. They’d rather concentrate on the sources of lead rather than dump a bunch of other chemicals in the water system—which sounds reasonable at first, but like most feel-good Facebook memes, it fails to mention that these “chemicals” include anti-corrosives that prevent household pipes from breaking down. Things, though, they may be a-changin’.

Recently the City has been mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cover its open-air reservoirs (that people pee in), which seems to be leading to some discussion on the topic of reversing the aforementioned hands-off policy on chemical additives.

Skipping the who and the why of it all (including how the EPA thinks Portland has made some really bad choices), what about the lead toxicity Portlanders are facing now? The EPA springs into action whenever they find lead at 15 parts per billion. The Portland Water Bureau says that only about 3% of homes are likely at risk. Not bad, right? Yep. Right up until you realize that the toxicity numbers are based on exposure to adults, not kids. In fact, there currently exists no standard for determining what lead levels are dangerous for children. Needless to say, it’s probably a hell of a lot lower for a two-year-old than a 250-pound, grown-a*s adult.

Especially in light of the crisis in Flint, Michigan, many residents in Portland are wondering what they can do to protect themselves. The best answer I can find is “boil your sh*t” and cross your fingers. Brita makes a system that claims to clean out some lead, but I’d rather drink lead than the virulent bacteria cultures dozens of studies have found those kinds of filters to foster. Yep, Canada almost banned them once, and Germany put out an order that all people using Brita filters should boil their water before drinking it. Yummy!

At least with all that’s been going on you can bet that the EPA is primed and ready to crawl up inside Portland’s rear and explode before it gets too bad (even though we don’t know what “too bad” means exactly).

Portlander’s App Breathes Life into Calling Card Industry
A new app named Cliqa by Portlander Edgar Navas (a former telecom executive) seeks to take over the calling card industry and help immigrants call home without being ripped off. Honestly, I didn’t even know these things were still around. We used to use them back in high school to [THIS PART OF THIS WEEK’S “AS THE STATE TURNS” HAS BEEN REMOVED SO THE AUTHOR CAN AVOID INCRIMINATING HIMSELF].

Apparently the industry is still going strong, generating about $3 billion a year, which is sad, because they basically rip off all users. The rates are insane and they’re kept that way to bleed immigrants dry. And until now the four or so companies dominating it have had no competition.

Cliqa seeks to provide a clean service to people without all of the nickel and diming nonsense you get from your average long-distance card. And dammit, good luck to you, Mr. Navas.

Hales Joins Anti-Anti-LGBT Mayors Club
He’s no Kitzhaber, but Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has gotten together with a group of other “big city” mayors to oppose all of these ridiculous anti-LGBT religious freedom laws that are cropping up. Now, please, nobody tell him that Portland isn’t a big city.

All jokes aside, I’m proud to live in a state with leaders willing to step up on this sort of thing.

By Johnny Beaver