With transparency, citizens can know how well their public employees are serving. Thus, if the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (MSTP) is well run, transparency lets us know, so we can be confident and appreciative of a job well done. But, if the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant is poorly run, transparency empowers citizens to put pressure on elected officials to correct problems, and restore needed efficiencies. Unfortunately, when it comes to sewage services, the leadership of Molalla has a history of impeding transparency.
As a case in point, consider how poorly MSTP handled transparency eight years ago, when they signed a Consent Decree. MSTP was required to post weekly data reports for the two-year duration of the Consent Decree. They failed. Only a few of the weekly reports and some of the monthly reports were posted. Years later, the website was changed making it difficult to find the report copies. (click here to view all reports as copied on 1/25/2015)
Anyway, here’s the background on transparency failures with the Consent Decree of 2006…
In late May 2006, multiple groups and individuals filed a civil action against the City of Molalla charging violations in waste handling at the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant. Roughly eight months later, a settlement was reached between the parties, in the form of a Consent Decree. The key terms of this Consent Decree, which remained in effect for two years, included:
- For two years, City of Molalla would do additional weekly water testing at the following locations: (para.16)
- the Feyrer Park Bridge
- immediately upstream of the City’s Molalla River outfall
- at the downstream edge of the mixing zone, which is 50 feet downstream of the City’s Molalla River outfall
- the Highway 211 bridge
- the point where Fryer Park Road crosses the irrigation ditch
- and, at the point where the City’s effluent pipeline crosses the irrigation ditch.
- When conducting these additional weekly water tests, City of Molalla would use grab samples to analyze for Biological Oxygen Demand (BODS), total suspended solids, ammonia, e-coli, temperature, and pH. (para.16)
- For two years, City of Molalla would post data on its website. This would include both the weekly analysis results at the above six locations, and the monthly/quarterly MSTP monitoring reports filed with DEQ, in accordance with the NPDES Permit. (para.16)
- City of Molalla would pay $6,324 in civil penalties (para.22)
- City of Molalla would pay $50,000 in legal fees (para.24)
- City of Molalla would pay $110,000 to fund a supplemental environmental project administered by Molalla Riverwatch (para.23)
And how well did the City of Molalla do? Well, some of the monthly reports were posted online, and some of the additional weekly water test results were posted, too. So, during some times of the two year Consent Decree, citizens were able to see the data. But the data was spotty. And, unfortunately, once the two year requirement of the Consent Decree was done, Molalla quit posting their monthly reports.