Tag Archives: NPDES

January 28 Molalla City Council Meeting: Bear Creek Issues on the Agenda

At 7:00pm on Wednesday, January 28th, the Molalla City Council and the Molalla Urban Renewal Agency (MURA) will conduct Regular and Executive Meetings. The public is invited to attend the Regular Meeting sessions, which will be held at the Adult Center.

(click on image to learn more at the cityofMolalla.com website)

(click on image to learn more at the cityofMolalla.com website)

In preparation, the City of Molalla posted two large PDF documents, which can be viewed/downloaded via these links:

Bear Creek Recovery reviewed the documents. Three items were found that relate to the BCR mission: a scope/budget approval for contract work related to NPDES, spending approval of seven flow meters to monitor sewer I&I, and proposed tax abatement for Pacific Fibre Products, Inc. Two of these items were already approved; the third item is proposed. Details and links are provided below:

(1) Brown & Caldwell Project Scope:

NOTE: NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This is a federal system managed by the U.S. EPA, to ensure proper management and handling of pollutants so that water quality is protected. An NPDES permit is required before wastewater can be discharged into Bear Creek or the Molalla River. Application of sewage sludge (aka, biosolids) on farmland and other sites, is also subject to federal guidelines.
This issue was brought up at the 12/17/2014 Molalla City Council meeting, and approved.

(click on image to view entire 12/17/2014 draft meeting minutes)


(2) MSTP Flow Meters for I&I:

NOTE: ‘I & I’ is inflow and infiltration. Both terms refer to the invasion of extra and unwanted water into the raw sewage flow. Infiltration is water that leaks via poor pipe seals or pipe fractures. Inflow is the addition of rainwater and other liquids that is improperly piped into the sewer lines. An ‘I&I Analysis’ is done to assess the quality of a sewer system in terms of leakage.
This issue was brought up at the 1/14/2015 Molalla City Council meeting, and approved.
20150114scp.. Molalla City Council, draft minutes, scrap re I&I flow meters contract approval

(click on image to view entire 1/14/2015 draft meeting minutes)


(3) Proposed Tax Abatement for Pacific Fibre:

NOTE: The following was included in the 1/14/2015 ‘City Manager’s Report’:20150114scp.. Molalla City Council, draft minutes, scrap re Pacific Fibre tax abatement proposalThis proposal seeks to continue to waive tax payments for a company operating in Molalla. In trade, the company is to pay new employees at a high wage level, IF they hire any new employees. Molalla forgoes tax revenues in exchange for what is potentially (?likely?) zero benefit.
The proposal is listed cryptically on the agenda, as a ‘5 year enterprise zone agreement’, with no mention of the company involved, or the impacts of that company (both positive and negative). A city deficient in parks and behind on  maintaining and upgrading it’s sewers  is thus giving away needed funds.
Is this a local example of ‘Crony Capitalism‘? Will the City Council reject this bad idea? Will they ask the hard questions on Wednesday, or do citizens need to speak up?
Here’s a link to an analysis by BCR.

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 2014: 60-day Notice of Violations by City of Molalla STP (final version)

When a municipal sewage treatment plant fails to comply with the Clean Water Act, citizens have a right to take legal action. The process requires that the aggrieved first submit a 60-day notice, as a warning of the intent to file a civil action. This affords the municipality an opportunity to responsibly correct identified noncompliances.

On January 24, 2014, the CRAG Law Center (Cascade Resources Advocacy Group) filed a 60-day notice with the City of Molalla, on behalf of Bear Creek Recovery and Susan Hansen. Within the notice, a long series of failures were identified.

Here is a portion of the first page; click on the image to open a PDF of the full 10-page document.

(click on image to view/download pdf copy)

(click on image to view/download 10-pg PDF copy)

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?

March 2009: MSTP ends Online Posting of Pollution Sample Reports

Here is a copy of a webpage portion, with links to the reports, as screen-captured on 1/25/2015. It is also viewable at: http://www.cityofmolalla.com/publicworks/page/pollution-sample-report20150125scp.. Molalla Wastewater Division webpage, 'Pollution Sample Report'
And, here is the full set of reports, from September 2008 into mid-March 2009, compiled into one PDF:

20080905scp.. Sep-2008(wk1) portion of weekly grab sample compilation

(click on image to view/download compiled PDF reports)

April 2007: Signed Consent Decree resolving Molalla Irrigation v. City of Molalla

The image below is page one of the 19-page Final Consent Decree, in which City of Molalla paid fines and agreed to comply with specific monitoring requirements. The city also agreed to be transparent with data for a two year period, by regularly posting data online. Click on this [LINK] to open or download a PDF copy of the complete document….
20070411.. Consent Decree settling Molalla Irrigation et al v. CIty of Molalla (pg.1 pic)