The report of two new wastewater overflows has citizens wondering when sewer/water infrastructure is going to be made a priority in this town. ('Lake Oswego sees wastewater overflow in two locations,' Lake Oswego Review Web site, Oct 24). These incidents have become all too common. Lake Oswego has been fined for allowing multiple raw sewage spills to pollute the lake, and for neglecting to put a plan in place to address this decade-old problem.
From a March 2003 'Hello LO' feature article: 'The Lake Interceptor: Preparing for the Biggest Project in Recent History,' it is very clear that 'many options, with a wide range of costs, have been investigated and discussed with the city council.' And, 'construction could begin as soon as 2006.' Now, construction costs have grown by 200 percent since 2001 estimates with construction not being completed until 2010!
A Jan. 11, 2006 letter from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality cites Lake Oswego for Class 1 violations (the most serious violation) of federal and state Clean Water laws for dumping over 40,000 gallons of raw sewage into state waters. The citation letter notes: 'Though an upgrade of the lake interceptor has been identified as a necessary and anticipated project for a number of years, to the department's knowledge that work has not been scheduled.'
A week later a Jan. 19, 2006 headline appears in the Lake Oswego Review: 'Sewage spills into lake.' The article chronicles several events of tens of thousands of gallons of raw sewage overflows from multiple locations all over town during the January week preceding the DEQ violation notice. Some residents are asked not to use indoor plumbing, cautioned not to come in contact with the pollution and, in some cases, take refuge in hotels.
The article quotes Oregon DEQ environmental specialist, Lyle Christensen:
'In this case I think the city, to some extent, 'rolled the dice' on this. It has been a problem in the past' he said, pointing to a similar pattern of leaks in 2003 (almost 100,000 gallons from the same general spillage locations as in 2006) that should have alerted city officials that its sewage system was at capacity.
Most alarming is the city council's reaction barely a week after receiving the citation from the DEQ and only one day after the Review's in-depth article. The Council Retreat Minutes of Jan. 20 and 21, 2006 report:
'Mayor Hammerstad observed that the community center would be the council's number one priority. She pointed out that having a number one priority set a context for discussing other things that were doable this year, in that they would evaluate whether any project was as important as the community center and whether they had the time to do it now or should put it off to another day.' Councilor Turchi questioned taking off (from the 2006 Goals list) the lake interceptor. Mayor Hammerstad clarified that, while there was much staff work to be done on the lake interceptor this year, 'she did not see it as a council goal for 2006.'
And the result of the council's inattention and negligence? The council's top priority was the speculative $20 million Safeco purchase using emergency property tax reserves. To date an additional $2.5 million of these funds has been wasted on interest payments, consultant fees, city staff and moving the Parks and Recreation Department there. Ongoing monthly expenses are at least $100,000.
Citizens of Lake Oswego deserve to live in sanitary conditions. But the council has chosen to 'roll the dice' at a 'crap shoot table' and gamble with our public health and safety. The council's priority has been to engage in non-essential property speculation and bet 'our money' on Safeco! This gambling addiction of the council must be stopped and public health priorities mandated.
Protect our health and our future. Vote yes on 3-269. Vote no on 3-273.
Carolyne R. Jones is a resident of Lake Oswego.