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Old 07-24-2009, 04:21 PM   #1
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Default Beer crafters fret over changes to Portland city water

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- As the Oregon Brewers Festival celebrates 22 years, Portland's brewing community is finding it hard to swallow what may happen to their number one ingredient, water.

While long lines of beer lovers headed to the waterfront Thursday afternoon, some of Portland's biggest beer makers were trying to make sense of the federal government’s mandate to filter the Bull Run Watershed, Portland’s main water source.

"We have wonderful composition water -- the way it comes to us is perfect," said Kurt Widmer, co-founder of Widmer Brothers Brewing.

He wonders why on earth anyone would want to tamper with perfection.

Brewmaster Karl Ockert with Bridgeport Ales wonders how a change will affect flavor.

"It might jeopardize the delivery and the performance of the water," Ockert speculated.

But, according to the city, it has no choice.

A filtration system must be in place by April 1, 2014.

The Environmental Protection Agency mandate applies to all cities with open water systems and stems from a widespread breakout of cryptosporidium in Milwaukee, Wisc. in the spring of 1993.

New filtration will “better protect” cities and their residents, according to the EPA.

Two designs are currently being discussed. Ultraviolet filtration would only block cryptosporidium and little else.

"It wastes taxpayer money because it treats for a virus everybody agrees we do not have nor have the possibility of having," said Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard.

He and the water department were leaning toward a sand filtration system, which some believe will offer better protection and more consistent quality year round.

Meanwhile, the city continued to lobby the EPA for a waiver.

Portland must still prepare to meet the deadline should the government deny an exception, though, and either system will take at least five years to construct.

Brewers think any changes to Portland’s water are unacceptable.

"We've got this water systems that's worked perfect 110 years. Why screw that up?" Widmer said.

Not sure that I really like this development. Anyone have an opinion on this? It may affect a lot of the more popular beer coming out of Portland; which is a big deal


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Old 07-24-2009, 04:30 PM   #2
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Hey, you don't have the ability to think for yourself. Don't you know that? The government is here to help. Another fine example in my opinion.
Sorry to throw rocks into the hornets nest, as I am sure there are many who disagree.


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Old 07-24-2009, 04:42 PM   #3
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Kind of hard to pass judgement if we don't know what filtration system is going to be installed. If it's mainly used for cysts, then it might not filter out minerals. I know if I was a Portland brewer, I'd want all those details before I'd decide whether it was worth it to put up a fight.
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Old 07-24-2009, 04:50 PM   #4
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Huh.

Portland can get that infection storing finished water out in the open. That's how it works. Now that strain might not be very present up in Portland, but I bet that it's around.

I mean, the UV system just kills the bacteria and does not affect the mineral composition, so the brewers shouldn't worry...the sand one, it doesn't say much. But I see a lot of bluster and not a lot of reasoning here. Does the sand system really hurt the water composition?

My MIL lives in Alamosa, CO and they ended up getting a salmonella outbreak in their water, due to not properly separating finished water from non. They had to shut schools down, truck in water, no showers, no dish cleaning (paper plates for every meal), etc for a month or so. It suuuuucked.

Dude, the government provides the water. It's a utility. If you want the government out of your shiat, then just don't drink water.
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Old 07-24-2009, 05:23 PM   #5
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I have some pretty good info on this because I know someone who works for the other Portland (Maine) water district. Both Portlands are part of a handful of public water districts that don't filter water because it is so clean they have a waiver. Both Portland's are affected by the EPA mandate regarding Crypto, and both are trying to get a waiver.

As I understand it, if they can prove a certain absurdly low count of crypto cysts (1 per 13,000 liters) they can get exempted. But it is expensive to test that much water and there is no guarantee that it will pass.

Portland, Me is looking at UV treatment as the contingency. To a brewer this would be preferable as it shouldn't affect any brewing chemistry. Sand filtration adds chemicals and can alter brewing chemistry.

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Old 07-24-2009, 05:37 PM   #6
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They should be able to figure out the water changes, they just have to do a little more math/homework.
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:15 PM   #7
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The messing with water supplies is just going to ramp up exponentially* as the pure aquifers in this country continue to diminish. It's done in the name of public health which, like national security, is virtually impossible to argue against.....so I wouldn't bother.

If I was that concerned about where my water was coming from, I would have my own water treatment system, so that I could be 100% assured of the product. For example, we are on well water out where we live, and due to the high levels of dissolved iron and calcium, it is unsuitable for brewing. Given my small volumes, I just buy RO water from the grocery store. If I wanted to use my well water, there are surprisingly inexpensive systems available to treat water. The most suitable for the homebrewer are probably those designed for large aquarium owners:

Aquarium Water | Reverse Osmosis | RODI Water | ReefKeeper Water | Products and answers for your water treatment needs.

*exponentially- According to Lewis Black, "This is a word I learned in math class, and never thought I would ever, ever use in a sentence. Basically, it just means crappier, and crappier, and crappier."
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rico567 View Post
The messing with water supplies is just going to ramp up exponentially* as the pure aquifers in this country continue to diminish. It's done in the name of public health which, like national security, is virtually impossible to argue against.....so I wouldn't bother.
Since when has public water ever come from a "pure aquifer"? Heck, also, we'd have to also factor in the types of pipes water incounters before it gets to you (as some will leak more impurities then others). Besides chlorine, public water has been fluoridated starting in 1945. Due to physics, not just politics, it's impossible to get pure H2O from one's tap....so even if the current concern is with disease-bearing microbes, the bureaucracy of municipal water will never change...which has been messing with water since its inception
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Old 07-25-2009, 04:30 PM   #9
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Can't help myself... somewhat of a biology rant...

Basic types of microbes: bacteria, fungi, protozoans, viruses (one could argue whether or not they're actually "alive"), and prions (not alive at all, but sort of a protein with a purpose).

Cryptosporidium is a protozoan... not a virus or a bacterium. The only reliable way to eliminate it is through filtration since chemical treatment, heating (boiling), and UV light either doesn't kill it or isn't guaranteed to kill it. A 1 micron filter will remove it. If they use that, I don't see how it would affect the water chemistry.
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Old 07-25-2009, 05:15 PM   #10
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That is one badly researched and written article. Doesn't help that Leonard doesn't: A. know what Cryptosporidium is and B. doesn't know filters cannot remove viruses.

A sand filter could change the water profile, but not by much. It would probably be within seasonal variation.


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