Gladstone’s frequent discharges of untreated sewage into the Clackamas River resulted in a $6,400 penalty from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality last week.

DEQ cited the city for six occasions in 12 days during 2012 when Gladstone violated the state’s rule prohibiting the discharge of raw sewage into rivers or streams. The city’s sewage system overflowed nearly 250,000 gallons near Portland Avenue and West Clackamas Boulevard during rainstorms from Jan. 19 to 21, March 15 and 16, March 30, Nov. 20 and 21, Dec. 4 and 5, and Dec. 20 and 21.

Courtney Brown, DEQ’s environmental law specialist, said the state prohibits discharges of untreated or partially treated sewage to discourage the public-health threat created by direct human contact and through affected insects. DEQ also indentifies sewage as a significant pollutant that can contaminate drinking water, harm aquatic life and impair recreational, commercial and agricultural uses of water.

“We want to create an incentive for people to comply and create some deterrent for future compliance,” Brown said. “The fine amount is not meant to be punitive.”

Rather than appeal the fine by the April 3 deadline, City Attorney David F. Doughman wrote to DEQ, saying that the city “intends” to pay for its self-reported sewage overflows.

“Gladstone takes the issue seriously and is working to solve it with the limited dollars it has at its disposal,” Doughman wrote. “We would like to schedule a meeting with DEQ at its earliest convenience to discuss whether the city and the state could agree to allow the city to commit the dollar value of this penalty (and future penalties related to overflows, if any) solely to funding a long-term solution to preventing overflows.”

DEQ will allow the city to use up to 80 percent of the fine to apply for a “supplemental environmental project” grant.

“Usually we don’t allow municipalities larger than 5,000 to apply penalties to projects that they should already be doing for compliance to state environmental laws, but we’re looking for an exception,” Brown said. “Our policies are just policies—they’re not rules, and that’s something that we’ll be discussing internally.”

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