Category Archives: FrogBlog

July 2014: DEQ Letter to Molalla, seeking further info prior to issuing a revised RWUP

The letter is by Tiffany Yelton-Bram, who is Manager of the Water Quality Source Control Section at the DEQ office in Portland. It sets a deadline of 7/22/2014 for Molalla to produce the requested answers and records.

The closing paragraph includes three ‘recommendations’ that DEQ would like to see Molalla do:

  1. keep all recycled water irrigation records for five years
  2. identify an alternative means (such as a website) to share records with the Public
  3. rewrite and reorganize the RWUP to improve readability for the Public.

Here is a link to the PDF:

20140710.. Letter to D.Huff re MSTP RWUP, need more info, by T.Yelton-Bram (2p)

 

Welcome to BCR’s FrogBlog!

This website has been constructed to inform. Pages present the maps, plans, news articles and other old records that tell the story behind Bear Creek. We have put considerable effort into researching and posting this information, and hope that it empowers ALL of us citizens around Molalla to take care of this part of our home. We also hope to set up FrogBlog to encourage individuals to express and share their concerns, hopes, ideas and views.

The aim of this website is simple: to ensure that everyone can become effectively involved in the decisions and actions taken on behalf of Bear Creek.

If you have something you want to say, please sign up and submit your comment. And, if someone wants to challenge your statement, great! You can respond back to them, and we can all learn from a clean and healthy debate,

Here are the Ground Rules:

  1. you have to use your real name. We do not want to encourage an unaccountable shouting match or fight of words between pseudo-identity #1 and pseudo-identity #2.
  2. you are asked to not be overly repetitive, re-stating your position. In the interest of brevity, the FrogBlog Moderator reserves the right to cull out any such repetitive statements by the same person.
  3. Free Speech and Open Communications are extremely important. So, a careful effort will be made to guard against censorship. In fact, if you are offended by a decision to remove some of your comments, just advise, and the Moderator will possibly either restore your removed comments, or create a fresh page to post your removed comments. This way, others can see the comments that were removed, as well as your complaint against the removal.
  4. and, of course, let’s all comply with the basic rules of civility. Be respectful, no name-calling, use generally clean word-choices, back up your accusations with facts, etc. This really is all Golden Rule stuff.

“Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”


NOTES:

  • FrogBlog design began in mid-June 2014, and the blog became generally operational in late July 2014.
  • A Post format will be used to collect and organize the hundreds of documents that have been generated over the years. These Posts will use the date of the document or event, thus may pre-date the start of FrogBlog.

Satellite Images for Bear Creek

A series of satellite images has been compiled to help readers learn the geography covered by Bear Creek.

The images are in two sets.

One set shows satellite images upstream from the Molalla STP. This is the headwaters area, from Coleman Ranch west to the western edge of Molalla.

The other set shows satellite images downstream from the Molalla STP. to the convergence with the Pudding River (just south of Aurora) and the north flow into the Molalla and Willamette Rivers just west of Canby.

USGS Topo Map of the Bear Creek Area

Bear Creek; USGS topo with 1985 photorevisions

Click on the map thumbnail to open a larger view.

This is a color topo map by USGS. The original USGS data was compiled using 1954 aerial photos, and photorevisions (in magenta) were added using 1985 aerial photos.

Although the map data is nearly thirty years old, the topography is still very accurate, as is most of the road system. The 1985 map also reflects substantial development of sawmills during the three decades, from 1954 to 1985. Note the grouping of magenta rectangles south of town, at the Avison mill site; these are all mill buildings and structures, added during the mill’s peak (and pentachlorophenol) years.

January 29, 2014: Molalla Pioneer Article

City of Molalla threatened with lawsuit

Created on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 00:00 | Written by Peggy Savage
A local conservation group, Bear Creek Recovery, provided notice Friday to the city of Molalla that it intends to file a civil lawsuit in federal court to protect Bear Creek and the Molalla River from violations of the city’s Clean Water Act permit.

Bear Creek Recovery’s concerns arise from the city’s history of unlawful operation of its wastewater treatment facility and what Bear Creek Recovery considers a failure by the city to take corrective action.

A 60-day notice included with the letter stated: “Unless the city takes the steps necessary to remedy ongoing violations of the CWA and the NPDES Permit, BCR intends to file suit against the city of Molalla in the U.S. District Court immediately following the expiration of the required sixty day notice period, seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties in the amount of $37,500 per day per violation enumerated below and for any additional, similar violations that BCR may discover subsequently.”

The notice to the city was made via certified mail in a letter dated Jan. 24, 2014.

City Manager Dan Huff said Monday morning that the city of Molalla had not as yet received the notice concerning the lawsuit.

“If we do receive something, our attorneys will handle the issue,” Huff said.

The city of Molalla operates its sewage treatment plant under a permit issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The city disposes of treated wastewater during the dry months by spraying the wastewater on fields outside the city limits adjacent to Bear Creek. The DEQ permit places limits on the irrigation practices utilized by the city and on its disposal of biosolids and management of the sewage treatment plant.

DEQ records show that the city has violated the terms of the permit over the past five years, particularly during the summer months, by applying treated wastewater on unauthorized land sites and in quantities that caused ponding and runoff on the fields.

The city’s largest irrigation field, which includes sections of Coleman Ranch, surrounds a stretch of Bear Creek, contains a number of sensitive wetlands and contributes flow to the creek, especially when the soil is saturated.

DEQ sent several warning letters to the city last fall notifying city officials of the violations and directing the city to cease the unlawful activity. The DEQ, however, has not brought an enforcement action against the city of Molalla.

Hansen, a local citizen, is concerned over the potential for pollutants to reach Bear Creek, impacting fish and wildlife habitat as well as posing a risk to the public who live and recreate near the creek.

“We can no longer sit back while DEQ looks the other way,” Hansen said. “We have a right as citizens to uphold the Clean Water Act and see that the city shows progress toward improving water quality in Bear Creek and the Molalla River.”

Under the Clean Water Act, individual citizens or groups may bring an action against an alleged violator. The citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act serves to supplement both state and federal government enforcement actions so that all citizens can protect the waters they care about and depend upon.

This would be the second time that the city of Molalla is sued under the Clean Water Act for mismanagement of its sewage treatment plant. The city was also sued in 2006 for similar violations, said Christopher Winter, staff attorney and director of Crag Law Center, a public interest law firm based in Portland.

“It’s a sensitive topic,” Winter said. “We are hoping that the city will make a genuine effort to comply with this permit over the next two months, and we hope to be able to talk to the city about it.”

Winter said he handled the 2006 lawsuit against the city of Molalla for Molalla Irrigation Company. That case resulted in a settlement.

“Molalla Irrigation was involved, and a big part of that settlement related to irrigation practices,” he said. “So in many ways, the problems addressed by that settlement seem to be recurring.”

Maura Fahey, a legal fellow with the firm, stated that “Bear Creek Recovery is hopeful that we are able to resolve these issues with the city before formal litigation becomes necessary.”

Bear Creek Recovery is an Oregon non-profit organization formed to advocate for and protect the environment of Bear Creek and the surrounding community. Bear Creek Recovery has members who live, recreate, and work in the Bear Creek watershed, including near fields where the city of Molalla sprays and irrigates fields with recycled wastewater from the Molalla STP facility. Bear Creek Recovery is working to protect the Bear Creek watershed from threats to environmental and public health.

BCR board members include Jeff Lewis, chairman; Harlan Shober, vice chairman; Susan Hansen, secretary; Patricia Ross, treasurer; Pat Conley and Mitchell Ross.


Copied 8/23/2014 from:
http://portlandtribune.com/mop/157-news/208858-66574-city-of-molalla-threatened-with-lawsuit

January 24, 2014: Letter to the Editor

The following is Bear Creek Recovery’s Letter to the Editor, as published in the Molalla Pioneer…


Molalla and the Clean Water Act: Why We Care

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water. “ – Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey

As you travel around the Molalla countryside, have you noticed all the “magic waters” that gather and flow? Our hills and dales are filled with springs, vernal pools, wetlands, creeks and one amazing wild and scenic river. Some of our watersheds feed the Molalla River; many others flow west to join the Pudding River. Some water emerges and then seeps below ground to recharge our wells. All our gathering waters finally join the Willamette and the Columbia. Along the way – from the tiniest springs and seasonal pools to the mighty Columbia – wildlife, domestic animals and humans depend on clean water to survive.

Last spring, a group of local people gathered to discuss concerns about Molalla area watersheds. A non-profit called Bear Creek Recovery (BCR) was formed. Bear Creek was chosen as a symbol of a local watershed in need of mitigation and protection. BCR’s goals include working to educate the public about Bear Creek and its adjoining watersheds and wetlands.

BCR has learned a great deal about the functions of local watersheds and identified threats to our fragile wetland environments. We have focused on Molalla’s wastewater treatment plant, because the City discharges treated effluent into the Molalla River while it also, during the dry months, applies tens of millions of gallons of wastewater to areas of the Bear Creek Watershed. What we learned is that the City is falling behind on the most basic upkeep and maintenance causing major problems for our watersheds. For years, the City has been using illegal disposal sites. For its part, DEQ has looked the other way and has never once enforced the permit against the City.

Molalla’s violations revolve around inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the old sewers (I&I), lack of adequate recycled water application sites, sewage sludge accumulation and ponding, run-off and creek re-charge from over-irrigating with recycled water

A recent report from DEQ indicates that an estimated 500,000 gallons per day of groundwater and stormwater are entering its sewage system, which overwhelms the treatment plant. The City’s I&I problems has been known for years, yet DEQ continues to allow the City to delay taking significant steps to fix the failing sewer pipes. DEQ now proposes to amend the City’s permit without requiring the most basic maintenance of the City’s system.

Here is what Molalla’s former Director of Public Works, Dean Madison, stated in a memo to DEQ in 1997: “Molalla has major I&I problems…flows up to 100 times normally acceptable levels…the entire older system has high I&I throughout.” Seventeen years later, no aggressive action has been taken to solve the I&I problems. DEQ should ensure that the City actually begins resolving the I&I issue under its new permit, but, based on the draft permit, this is not likely to happen.

What is DEQ’s answer? It proposes to rubber stamp the illegal disposal sites that Molalla has been using for years. That’s like punishing your child by patting him on the back and saying, “nice job, son.” Even with multiple unpermitted sites in use in the past, Molalla caused overspray, ponding, run-off and re-charge of Bear Creek; at times the city disposed of recycled water in the Molalla River during summer and fall. With DEQ unwilling to police the City, violations will likely continue.

Another major problem is that once water is separated and processed to be recycled, the City is left with sewer sludge (biosolids), which fills up its lagoons. This build-up of sludge has contributed to the City’s need to violate its permit in the past to avoid lagoon overflow and failure. The City needs to clean out its system, dispose of the sludge properly, and get back on track.

Water may seem “magic” but there is no alchemy that can solve the many water quality problems we observe in Molalla. It will take education, cooperation and, ultimately, major changes to Molalla’s practices to meet compliance with the Clean Water Act. BCR’s 60 day notice is an invitation for all local stakeholders – urban and rural – to work together immediately to find solutions for Molalla’s recycled water, I&I and biosolids violations. This is the least that we should expect from the City as a good neighbor in our small community.

Ignoring water quality problems for decades causes them to be more difficult and expensive to solve. Molalla’s ability to thrive and grow will depend on its willingness to finally meet these challenges head on. Bear Creek Recovery encourages everyone to help with our mission to honor, protect and enhance the fantastic water resources we share in this amazing place we all call home.

October 2013: DEQ Warning Letter for Molalla STP Violations

On October 7, 2013, Tiffany Yelton Bram, manager at DEQ’s Water Quality Source Control Section, issued a warning letter and opportunity to correct deficiencies at the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (MSTP). The letter was addressed to both Molalla City Manager Dan Huff and Molalla Public Works Director Marc Howatt.

Within the letter, it was noted that MSTP was found to be in violation of their NPDES permit, that during the 2013 irrigation season they had applied treated MSTP wastewater at numerous locations not included within the permit. The permitted locations included the MSTP property and the South portion of Coleman Ranch. The non-permitted (violation) locations included:

  • Jorgensen property
  • North Coleman Ranch
  • Coleman Ranch corrals
  • Adams Cemetery
  • Mandan Nursery site (east side of Molalla Ave., just south of Bear Creek)

The letter notes that the violation locations were not included in the list of approved application sites in Molalla’s 2004 Recycled Water Use Permit (RWUP). A draft RWUP revision was submitted in July 2013.

July 2013: Draft Recycled Water Use Plan for MSTP (41-pages)

As part of the process for renewing their permits, Molalla STP prepared a draft Recycled Water Use Plan (RWUP), dated July 18, 2013.

“The City irrigates the Coleman Ranch, Jorgensen property, and the wastewater plant, in the summer to make it until the next discharge cycle. We treat the irrigation water with the same process as the water discharged to the Molalla River.”

– text from pg.8 of this draft RWUP

The text within this draft RWUP specifically notes that the reason for irrigating is to “…make it until the next discharge cycle.” In other words, this is seen as a simple engineering problem: manage the accumulating wastewater until the date arrives, sometime in the fall, when it is again legal to discharge directly into the Molalla River. It is that simple.

To appease citizen concerns, they promote this irrigation as a ‘beneficial use’. Officials pretend there are no health issues associated with this treated wastewater, but given the history, can we really trust that this ‘treated wastewater’ has been adequately ‘cleaned’? Can we be confident that the wastewater being used to irrigate pastures for grazing cattle and other properties does not have hazardous (and persistent) elements such as synthetic pharmaceutical compounds? Is it possible that using this water to irrigate at Coleman Ranch and other locations is triggering other problems, such as blooms of E.coli contamination?

The key question is this: would it be safer and healthier, and would we thus be better off, if we stored the MSTP wastewater through the summer then discharged into the river during the rainy season? And, if so, do we have sufficient storage capacity at the MSTP lagoons to pursue this as a real option? Or, are the MSTP ponds too small, or too plugged with accumulated sludge that has not been regularly removed?

June 2013: A News Article about ‘Shorty’s Pond’

A good place to explore the upper reaches of Bear Creek is at City of Molalla’s Ivor Davies Nature Park. It’s basically a large flat area with a high water table, with a few trails and some added plants. Nothing awe-inspiring, but nonetheless a good place to get outside and walk the dog or take a jog or stroll.

(click on image to view area at Google maps)

(click on image to view area at Google maps)

Perhaps the most prominent feature of this park is a large and somewhat muddy feature that dries up in the hottest summers, called ‘Shorty’s Pond’ (orange circle, above). Here is a copy of a news article done by Henry Miller at the Statesman Journal:20130605.. Shorty's Pond article, by H.Miller at StatesmanJournal, p120130605.. Shorty's Pond article, by H.Miller at StatesmanJournal, p2


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