Friday’s boil-water notice in Portland had no impact on neighboring Vancouver, except maybe in its grocery stores.
Vancouver’s water system, which serves more than 230,000 people, is supplied entirely by underground aquifers, according to the city’s public works department. The same goes for Clark Public Utilities, which provides water to about 30,000 customers in the county. Many other residents use their own wells.
Portland, by contrast, uses above-ground water sources, sent through a system that includes several uncovered reservoirs in the city. That leaves its water supply more susceptible to outside contaminants, including human or animal waste.
Officials announced a boil-water notice for all of Portland on Friday after multiple samples tested positive for E. coli. Another contamination occurred in 2012, though that year’s advisory affected a smaller number of people.
Vancouver hasn’t issued a boil-water order in recent memory, though the city does have a plan in place to get word out quickly in the event of a contamination, officials have said.
Meanwhile, by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Vancouver’s Grand Central Fred Meyer was left with a row of almost empty shelves in the store’s bottled water display.
Portland resident Armon Perryman pulled up to a checkstand at about that time with one dozen cases of Fred Meyer-brand bottled water, explaining that he’d only heard about the boil-water notice at 2:30 p.m. when he got off work at Precision Castparts.
He began his search for water in Portland, where stores had already run out of H2O, Perryman said.
“I went to Wal-Mart, Kmart, the dollar store and WinCo,” before heading north to Vancouver, he said.
The water he was buying would be used for drinking and cooking. He might give some to a friend, said Perryman, who spent $30 on the water, which was selling for $2.50 per case.
The store’s food manager Ryan Malen said Portland’s water issues had been generating a high volume of customer traffic all day to the store off state Highway 14 at Grand and Columbia House boulevards.
“We have people coming all the way from Gresham and Southeast Portland,” he said.
Malen said store employees had continued to bring its back-stocked bottled water out to the sales floor all day. He expected the store would run out some time Friday evening, and said he wasn’t sure when a new shipment would arrive.
“The priority is Portland,” he said. “We’re just selling what we had left over.”