Tag Archives: MolallaPioneer

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]

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.

July 2007: DEQ tests soil near former Avison lumber mill

This article concerns the Avison mill site, south of 5th Street and across from the High School football field and track.

News article, published by Pioneer Staff on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 at 4:05 PM.

By Abby Sewell, Molalla Pioneer

After finding dioxins — toxic chemical compounds — buried in the soil of the former Avison lumber mill site in Molalla, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has asked Avison Rock Quarry to sample the soil of nearby properties in search of contamination. Dealing with the soil contamination is the last hurdle facing Avison before 25 acres of the site can be certified as shovel-ready industrial land by the State of Oregon.

Dan Hafley, project manager with the Oregon DEQ’s voluntary cleanup program, said the levels of dioxins found in the soil on the north end of the site were low, less than one particle per billion.

“We don’t want people to be unduly concerned, because we’re not unduly concerned,” he said. “But as a precaution, we have asked the property owner to take samples from nearby residential properties.”

After conducting the sampling at eight neighboring residential properties tomorrow, the results are expected to come back in three or four weeks. At that point, the DEQ will decide whether contamination from the Avison site is posing a risk to human health.

Long-term exposure to dioxins has been shown to cause cancer in animals and scientists suspect the same is true of humans.

The toxic particles in the soil at the old mill site are residue from dip tanks filled with pentachlorophenol, an anti-mold agent used to treat wood in the 1980s, Hafley said. The mill closed in the early 1990s, and has since remained undeveloped except for the northwest corner, leased by the Molalla Redi-Mix concrete plant.

Avison Rock Quarry owner Bill Avison said details of the site cleanup plan are still being finalized.

“We’ve been working cooperatively with the DEQ to get (the site) to this point, and I think everyone wants to see it completed,” he said.

The cleanup could be as simple as shoveling out the offending turf and hauling it away or could entail removing some and capping the rest with cement or another sealant. Hafley said the dioxins on site are not thought to pose a threat to neighboring groundwater.

“We’ve assessed the groundwater and we have some very localized impacts, but they don’t expand off site,” he said.

While contamination has also been found on the south side of the 54-acre property, in ditches that extend toward Bear Creek, Hafley said the DEQ’s main focus is on the 25 acres in the northern portion of the site, where a certification as shovel-ready industrial land could bring new economic development to the area.

“The potential for development is very important to us,” he said.

Jamie Johnk, Clackamas County’s rural economic development coordinator, said the site will likely receive its certification in September.

“Once you’re done with the certification, it guarantees potential property owners that they can break ground on the site within 180 days,” she said.

Once the soil testing results return, and a final cleanup plan is presented, the DEQ will accept public comment before approving the plan.

Avison is funding the environmental study, cleanup, and regulator oversight costs at the site. Some funding for the investigation came through a Clackamas County EPA Brownfield Grant and development funds from the Oregon Economic Community Development Department.

Source: http://molallapioneer.blogspot.com/2007/07/deq-tests-soil-near-former-avison.html