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Portland approved a multi-million dollar water filtration system — but planners forgot to include the pipes

When the pipes were added, the cost skyrocketed by 70 percent

George Rose/Getty Images

The city of Portland is stuck paying $350 million more than it had planned for a new water filtration plant — all because the bureau that presented the project plan forgot to include any pipes to carry the water into and out of the system.

What happened?

Portland's Water Bureau presented the city council with a plan in 2017 for a water treatment plant that, they said, would cost $500 million. The Portland City Council approved the project.

It wasn't until two years later that the Water Bureau finally admitted that it had left something out of that proposal, the pipes between the water source, the plant, and consumers, and that the plant would actually cost more than they had stated. A lot more — 70 percent more, in fact. The actual cost, not including any delays or setbacks or other items that seem to invariably increase the cost of government projects, the plant would now cost $850 million. Out of the additional $350, $200 million would be to include the pipes. The rest, $150 million, was in adjusted costs to build the rest of the plant, which had apparently become much greater over a two year period.

They also admitted that there were other options that would cost $730 million and $670 million, but urged the city council to pick the most expensive version. According to KATU-TV, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty asked the bureau to explain "why we're doing a Mercedes plant, when the requirement is that we meet the regulations."

"It would have been very helpful for me to know that what we were talking about at that time was not the total project cost but merely one component of an overall system," Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said, according to the Oregonian. "We needed to know we were talking about a piece of the system that could not operate, work or function in any meaningful manner without the other component of the system."

Since city governments are funded by taxpayer dollars, this extra charge would lead to an increase in water and sewer bills for Portland's residents, causing them to rise an additional $131 per year by 2028.

One last thing…
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