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State fines Lake Oswego, ties city to sewer repair schedule

LAKE OSWEGO - A recent deal with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is tying Lake Oswego to a schedule for fixing its sewers and also levies $54,000 in fines for past violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The deal, signed Tuesday, has been in the works for more than a year and stems from sewage overflows to Oswego Lake in December 2005 and January 2006. At the time, leaking sewers pushed 97,000 of untreated sewage onto city streets, which eventually washed into the lake via storm drains. Additional sewer overflows have occurred since.

After more than a year of negotiations on problems, Jeff Bachman, an attorney for DEQ, said the agreement gives Lake Oswego 'a pass' on future overflows as long as the city meets deadlines for replacing its sewer interceptor - a 20,000-foot pipe in Oswego Lake. The pipe is seismically unsound and undersized to meet wet weather demands.

'From the department's perspective, it's more important that we get a firm date that they will get the problem fixed,' Bachman said.

Construction on a new interceptor is set to begin by Oct. 1, 2009 with numerous milestones along the way. By the terms of the agreement, Lake Oswego must file quarterly reports on the project with DEQ and also provide a response plan for future sewer overflows. A failure to meet the timetable laid out in the agreement results in fines of $250 a day.

The agreement does provide some leeway for problems but requires written notification of those.

Joel Komarek, city engineer for Lake Oswego, said DEQ has been clear that few delays are acceptable.

'We understand there aren't many things that they may consider good cause,' he said.

By the terms of the agreement, Lake Oswego can redirect up to 80 percent of its fines to local water quality projects.

Komarek said the city would likely direct the funds to upgrades at a water quality station on Springbrook Creek and to installing a second monitoring station on Lost Dog Creek.