As a long-time resident of Lake Oswego, I am proud to come from such a strong, supportive community that truly cares about education, family, and the well-being of its members. But recent issues surrounding the over-capacity problems of the sewer pipeline have caused me to question the priorities of Lake Oswego and make me worry about the future of our community.
There has been much resistance and general grumbling about the high costs of installing a new sewer pipeline to improve the water sanitation of Oswego Lake. With estimated costs of around $100 million, it is only natural that the public should be concerned about the cost, and rightly so. However, before we start pointing fingers at the city council for 'spending money like a drunken sailor,' I urge you to support this initiative as an opportunity to improve the very essence of our community.
Since 1996, our city has suffered from over 32 incidences of sewer overflows, resulting in gallons upon gallons of untreated waste flowing into our much-loved lake. During the winter of 2005, a particularly rainy season, a total of 97,000 gallons overflowed from the pipeline through manholes onto the streets, which was ultimately washed into the lake by rainwater. Last April, the overflow problems caused serious damage of a house and forced the family out of its house for two months. This spilling of toxic, untreated waste water into public spaces and bodies of water is not only a serious health hazard, but is also in direct violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Although the Oregon Department of Environmental Lake Oswego to take action since 1996, it was not until February of this year that the DEQ finally decided to bind Lake Oswego to a strict schedule for fixing its sewers, mandating that Lake Oswgo file quarterly reports with the DEQ and provide a response plan for future sewer overflows. Failure to comply with the agreement results in serious fines to the community. Furthermore, the plan also levies $54,000 in fines for past violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
It is sad (and rather ironic) that we Oregonians have let environmental issues get so out of control that the state government has had to step in and coerce us into action via fines and violations, but now that it has happened, we should view this positively as an opportunity to regain our dignity as a community, rather than as simply an extravagant spending of the council.
Moreover, there seems to be remarkably little faith in the engineers of our city. People seem to be groaning about the numbers before realizing how much is actually being accomplished with that money. According to Lake Oswego Engineering, when designing this pipeline, the engineers are faced with not only the task of 20,000-foot pipeline, but also one that is upgraded to meet current DEQ earthquake standards and one that can accommodate the unusually soft sediment that lies at the bottom of Oswego Lake. Because the ground is too soft to anchor traditional pipelines, the city is endorsing the implementation of a submerged, buoyant sewer main that would run the length of Oswego Lake. This has never been done before, and it is exciting to think that Lake Oswego could be at the forefront of groundbreaking technology.
Oswego Lake is the hallmark of our community. It is the very heart of this city where rich traditions have been built and where friends and family have bonded. The lake is something that defines our community, and it is something that we take great pride in. And now, when water sanitation issues threaten our beloved lake, we should come together to take action not simply to avoid fines or sanctions, but rather to demonstrate our love for the lake, our love for our community.
Susan Lou is a student at Stanford University. She is a Lake Oswego resident who graduated from Lakeridge High School in 2005.