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Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

Online Edition of The Cardinal Times

The Cardinal Times

How clean are Portland’s iconic Benson bubblers?

Meghan Whitten
Benson bubbler on Portland’s Glisan street.

Benson bubblers are an iconic Portland quirk. The bronze fountains have between one to four bowls and corresponding fountain spouts. They primarily stand on street corners, making them easily accessible to the public.

These water fountains are named after philanthropist Simon Benson, who donated $10,000 to the city of Portland for the purchase and installment of the water fountains in 1912. 

Unlike normal water fountains, they run non-stop, allowing for hands-free drinking.

Junior Charlotte Cetnar-Cook is an avid runner and Benson bubbler user. 

“They are nice when you are on a run and thirsty, but they are kind of disgusting and I have seen a lot of weird stuff in them,” she said. “For example, I have seen seeds shoved in them and birds bathing in them.”

Some Lincoln students agree with Cetnar-Cook, saying that they have seen unsanitary things happen around the fountains or that the fountains are unsanitary themselves. 

Sophomore Riley DeBose says she avoids drinking out of Benson bubblers altogether.

“I believe [they are] unsanitary,” says DeBose. “I’ve seen people washing their clothes and hair [in them], as well as birds and dogs drinking out of them.” 

Do Benson bubblers really deserve this reputation? 

The Portland Water Bureau reports on their website that, “[The] drinking water is fresh and not recycled. Because the bubblers run freely, they also boost the water quality in the rest of the distribution system by keeping fresh water flowing through the pipes.” 

The Portland Water Bureau also reported that the fountains are cleaned and maintained by the city.

Tim McGuire, a maintenance manager working for the Portland Water Bureau, is in charge of maintaining the bubblers. He reported that the fountains are clean and well maintained by the city.

“The water that flows through the fountains is safe and clean,” McGuire said. “The fountains are cleaned on a two-week schedule with a scrub pad and a non-toxic cleaning solution.” 

McGuire recognizes that certain circumstances, like the misuse of the fountains, can affect the public’s perception of their cleanliness. 

“If a fountain has been vandalized, our work group will shut the fountain off, make the necessary repairs, and return the fountain back to service,” McGuire said. “The fountains are sanitary, but some of the fountains are abused and tend to reside in the downtown core.” 

In an article published by Willamette Week, they reported that, If there’s any part of a Bubbler that might carry germs, it’s the exterior surfaces where a person might rest a hand while taking a drink.”

McGuire assures the public that the fountains are safe to drink from because of the water safety protocols and cleaning regime. 

“Some of the fountains are cleaned more frequently, as needed,” McGuire reports. “We recommend drinking from the fountains, especially if someone is thirsty!”

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About the Contributor
Meghan Whitten
Meghan Whitten, Sports Editor
Meghan is a sophomore this year. It's her first time on the paper, so she is excited for the experience and the chance to be a part of this amazing community! She is also excited to write for a publication! She loves sports and opinion pieces because they are so entertaining and fun to write!
Contact by emailing [email protected] and put the reporter's name in the subject line.

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