Tag Archives: D.Huff

January 2015: A ‘Letter to Editor’ to Molalla Pioneer, regarding MPC Hearing & Wetlands Near Toliver Road

…the following is Susan Hansen’s Letter to the Editor, sent to the Molalla Pioneer…

Molalla’s usual haphazard planning, putting developers’ demands above sound and orderly planning and zoning, is on display with the proposal to re-zone a Toliver Road parcel from single family to multi-family.

City Manager Huff claims that Molalla needs more multi-family. If that is true, why did Huff advocate to re-zone a big chunk of land in Big Meadow from multi-family to single family this summer? In sound urban planning, multi-family is integrated into residential areas so traffic filters out onto multiple neighborhood feeder roads. The property on Toliver would dump multi-family traffic onto already busy Toliver, right next to the Grade School.

The Toliver property hosts wetlands outlined on Molalla’s official Wetland Inventory (BC-6A). Before any development can occur, a property owner must hire wetlands experts to produce a wetland delineation report and submit it to the Division of State Lands. How can Molalla’s Planning Commission make an informed decision about re-zoning to multi-family before that required study is submitted and approved? No one knows how much of the subject property could actually be developed and what constrictions will be imposed because of the wetlands.

The subject property’s wetlands are part of a 10 acre Toliver Road to Main Street wetlands complex that feed Bear Creek. The Inventory notes the wetlands have high enhancement potential, provide wildlife habitat and have potential for educational use and recreational activities. The wetlands feature a mature forest of Oregon white oak and ash. A segment of the Forest Road runs though these wetlands and the area would make a fantastic park for the woefully underserved west side of Molalla.

Molalla’s Comp Plan Goal 5 (pages 16-17 “Water Resources”) states: “Maintain natural wildlife corridors along protected creeks and drainage ways; Give priority to preservation of contiguous parts of that network which will serve as natural corridors throughout the city for the protection of watersheds and wildlife; Conserve significant trees and vegetation within protected water resource areas…”

Will Molalla respect the value of the wetlands by following its Water Resources mandate and step up to provide quality of life enhancing parks? Or will Molalla’s unthinking, greedy march to stuff in ill planned development continue unabated?

A hearing on Feb. 4 will consider what path to take; citizen input is critical.

Thank you, Molalla Pioneer, for printing this letter in the 1/28/2015 print edition.

August 2014: A ‘Letter to Editor’ to Molalla Pioneer, regarding Biosolids

…the following is Jeff Lewis’ Letter to the Editor, sent to the Molalla Pioneer…

As a local citizen in the Molalla area, I appreciate that our local newspaper covers important government decisions that can impact health and quality of life. One example is the recent Pioneer coverage on 8/20/2014, ‘Council Accepts New Biosolids Plan’.

The article accurately notes that the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (the large ponds just west of Les Schwab) generates lots of waste byproducts, all of which must eventually be removed. What concerns me though is that the article implies lots of rules are being followed and that applying this sludge onto cropland is all positive, but the article fails to identify the negatives. Nor does the article mention a better and safer solution: this sludge needs to be sent to a landfill, not disposed onto cropland.

I am working with a few other concerned citizens who are trying to help Molalla officials improve Molalla, especially around the resource we know as Bear Creek. Our nonprofit group has created a website, BearCreekRecovery.org, where we are posting information and inviting community discussion. One of our key areas of concern is what the Molalla Sewage Treatment Plant (MSTP) does with their waste byproducts: the wastewater and sludge.

Fifty years ago, most U.S. cities disposed of sewage waste by piping it into rivers and barging it out for ocean dumping. The Clean Water Act put an end to that. A few years later, EPA began a positive ‘spin’ program, to convince the public that sewage treatment byproducts do not have to be fully cleaned and can be ‘beneficial’ if disposed onto farmland.

How dangerous is this stuff? Just go online and Google ‘biosolids Georgia dairy lawsuit’. There are hundreds of news articles, congressional testimonies and more about one of the worst biosolid stories: more than 200 cows killed by accumulation of biosolid toxins that eventually destroyed two dairies. Or, please see the collection of links at the BearCreekRecovery.org website.

It is good that Mayor Rogge, the City Council and Mr. Huff are looking at this issue, deliberating in public sessions, and explaining their decision to the press. This is transparency, which we need to happen. But, we are all aware of the power of ‘spin’ to distort public perception. A public manipulated to see only the good while ignoring the bad is a public poorly served by officials. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I hope that Molalla officials will soon clarify:

  • of the “750,000 gallons of sludge” declared in the article, how much of that is water, and how much of that is actual solids dredged from the MSTP ponds?
  • what percentage of total accumulated biosolids do we expect to see removed under this new contract transporting “750,000 gallons of sludge” to the Macksburg farmland?
  • what testing is MSTP doing on this “750,000 gallons of sludge” to assess the presence and concentration of such toxic elements as heavy metals, persistent synthetic pharmaceuticals, dioxins, etc. …the same biosolids toxins that have damaged and even destroyed farmlands elsewhere in the United States?

Thank you, Molalla Pioneer, for printing this letter at page 4 in the 8/27/2014 print edition. [link to jpeg]

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)

 

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

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?