Malinowski, Garden Home neighbors discouraged about alternative options

Reader's Note: This story was amended to further explain the design and purpose of the new Southwest 86th Avenue Pump Station, which will supersede the existing Fanno Creek station during times of peak flows. Spokesman Linc Mann said the latter station is undersized and will only be used to occasionally augment the larger station.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Work crews lower a new tank at a Portland Bureau of Environmental Services wastewater pump station along Fanno Creek in the Garden Home neighborhood on Tuesday. The controversial project has neighbors fuming about the planned expansion of the facility, based on worries about noise, possible leaks and the overall disruption to the neighborhood's ambience.Despite the efforts of a Washington County commissioner to spark reexamination of the project, a “surge tank” going into the ground this week indicates the city of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services’ controversial march to install a second wastewater pumping station along Fanno Creek is picking up speed.

Bulldozers and construction crews were in full swing in recent days, preparing the site outside the 13-year-old Fanno Creek Pumping Station to install the bulbous, $1 million hydraulic surge tank. The tank, whose installation should be complete in mid-June, will serve as a pressure relief system when rainwater from Portland’s West Hills residents overwhelms the Portland bureau’s capacity at a crucial junction behind a Garden Home neighborhood, causing wastewater to leak onto the heavily traveled Fanno Creek Trail.

“The surge tank will attach to the Fanno pressure sewer and will absorb pressure in the line when the city activates the pump station to protect the pressure sewer and help prevent any further pressure line leaks,” said Debbie Caselton, a spokeswoman for the Portland bureau, in a statement issued to neighbors earlier this spring.

The project is a precursor to construction of the Southwest 86th Avenue Pumping Station, a $25 million facility designed to push peak flows uphill about 2 miles to a downhill system leading to the Columbia River treatment facility in Northeast Portland. With the smaller station used only rarely, Washington County's Clean Water Services is taking on peak flows through an intergovernmental agreement with the Portland bureau.

The new station will be built on 1.5 acres of property at 7000 S.W. Caroland Road after the picturesque, two-story ranch house that sits there is deconstructed. Mary Shaver agreed in August 2011 to sell the residence and its grounds to the city of Portland for $1.75 million, according to Linc Mann, spokesman for the Portland bureau.

The city is considering options to distribute materials from the house, with some neighbors expressing interest in certain items as well as suggesting donations to local nonprofit agencies.

“It’s a deconstruction instead of a demolition,” Caselton said. “We think it’s pretty exciting.”

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Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowski, who has gone to bat numerous times for neighbors concerned about the project’s enormity and skeptical about its ability to reduce leaks and disruption to the neighborhood and trail users, has a hard time getting excited about the project.

After attempting for months to meet with Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, he was able to share his and Garden Home neighbors’ concerns about the project with Hales earlier this month.

However, he came away from the meeting less than confident of an alternative outcome, one of which would involve Washington County’s Clean Water Services taking over Portland’s peak rain and wastewater flows.

“He asked how far the city was on construction, is this something we could stop?” Malinowski said of Hales, who was accompanied in the meeting by Bureau of Environmental Services representatives. “They said, ‘Not very well.’ I suspect the mayor has so many things on his plate and in the fire that sticking with the status quo seemed like a reasonable thing.”

When asked why the bureau would consider building an even-larger version of a pumping facility barely 100 yards away from a smaller, rarely used station constructed in 1999, Mann said the amount of storm water flows during peak times had simply not been anticipated.

“The flow designs in the mid ’90s were the most accurate at that time, both in terms of the data and technology used,” he quoted from an online bureau forum on the topic. “Unfortunately, the assumptions our modelers used did not adequately represent all flows through the system. The intent was to project the amount of growth in the future and allow for additional capacity in the future. But we know now that the existing pump station is undersized.”

Losing battle

Stan Houseman, a neighbor of nearby Southwest Cecilia Court who has been among the more outspoken neighbors against the project, said a sense of resignation has settled into the neighborhood in recent weeks.

“Three neighbors have sold their homes because they could not stand the thought of listening to that construction for two years,” he said. “So the most vocal (neighbors) have just faded away. One couple that bought a house didn’t know anything about it.”

Half of that couple, who didn’t want to reveal her name for a news article, said she and her husband are distressed about the noise and disruption they expect to experience from the construction site about 60 yards away, as well as how the new facility will affect the neighborhood itself.

“It’s really disrupting the feng shui of the neighborhood,” she said. “There’s not one neighbor around here who’s happy about it. But when (the city of Portland) wants something, they get it.”

She and her husband, who otherwise love their 1960s-era Eichler-style home, learned a lot about home buying from their Garden Home experience.

“The lesson we learned is go door to door when you’re buying a house and ask if there are any concerns about the neighborhood,” she said. “You find out a lot.”

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