Portlanders scramble for water after boil alert

Credit: Mark Hanrahan, KGW Staff

Portlanders scramble for water after boil alert


by KGW Staff

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Posted on May 24, 2014 at 11:54 AM

Updated Saturday, May 24 at 11:54 AM

Do you think the city reacted and responded fast enough to the E. coli scare?

PORTLAND -- Shoppers used words like “bedlam,” “chaos,” and “frustration” on Friday to describe the scene at local stores as residents rushed to stock up for a prolonged water shortage after a city-wide boil water alert.

Due in part to social media, a run on water started at Portland stores before the city even held its noon news conference.

The aisles of some stores were jammed with carts and shoppers snatching up all the bottled water they could.

Background: City of Portland issues E. coli boil water alert


In a matter of minutes, store managers at one store put up a sign reading “We have run out of water.”

Frustrated customers said since the city had been running tests all week, they should have given stores an advance warning.

Customer Opal Chancler-Moore thought the city should have told stores, "'You might want to get all the water you have in your warehouse and have it on hand, in trucks, to bring it out here, so that if we have a run on water we can satisfy our customers.' That didn't happen."

At New Seasons, produce had to come off shelves due to the misting system, which uses city water. 

New Seasons officials said they were researching whether they needed to destroy the produce, or if it could be washed and donated. They were bringing in new produce that hasn't touched city water for customers. 

Several restaurants scrambled to figure out what they could and couldn't serve. Starbucks stores, for example, began selling only pre-packaged items. Piles of discarded ice lined neighborhood sidewalks as restaurants hastily dumped their supplies.



Portland hospitals scrambled to make sure they had enough water Friday.

[Above: Reserve Water supplies at Providence St. Vicent's Medical Center.]

Providence hospitals, like many others, have water in storage ready for use, with 10,000 gallons at the Providence Portland Medical Center alone.

“We actually plan for these water contamination scenarios,” said Christine Larson of Providence hospitals. “We have ample supply on each campus and we were able to respond fairly quickly, actually.”

At Legacy Good Samaritan, there were signs all over warning people about the water. Ice and soda machines were off.

Officials from the Portland Water Bureau said it was the largest boil order in Portland history.


KGW Reporter David Northfield contributed to this report