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DEQ considers TEC wastewater permit

The public hearing May 14 for the Department of Environmental Quality wastewater permit for the Troutdale Energy Center had only two comments submitted, but citizens have until 5 p.m. May 22 to make their opinions known to the DEQ.

“Tonight is for us to listen to your comments,” said permit writer Rob Burkhart at the hearing for the gas-powered energy center. “We will take those comments and any written comments we receive and we will provide written responses to those.”

It’s Burkhart’s job as permit writer to consider each comment and respond before proceeding in the wastewater permitting process. The DEQ already has issued an air quality permit for the TEC, and will issue the wastewater permit unless submitted comments sway the DEQ against the issuance.

Burkhart said the requirements of the permit also may be changed if a commenter raises an issue the DEQ had not previously considered.

As it stands now, the permit allows for discharge into the Sandy River — using the same outlet as the Troutdale Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“The biggest concern is temperature. It will be elevated as it leaves the facility,” he said.

This is because most of the water being discharged into the river will be used in the cooling process for the center, required in steam generating plants. The TEC will use either groundwater existent on-site, or use effluent from the wastewater treatment plant for a fee.

“We haven’t had customers for effluent before, but the Troutdale Energy Center would like to do that,” said City Manager Craig Ward in January.

The two citizens who testified at the hearing expressed concern about the environmental impact on the Sandy River, as well as the permitted mixing of discharge into the river.

“We feel the habitat impacts have been minimized and not properly addressed,” said Steve Weis, executive director of Sandy River Basin Watershed Council.

Weis said the permit also doesn’t address spawning in that area of the river.

“While (fish) may not be spawning in the outfall, it doesn’t mean it’s not possible,” he said. “This is an area of intense restoration efforts.”

Rick Till, legal advocate for Friends of the Columbia Gorge, also commented at the hearing.

Till argued that there needs to be a balance between the impact on the environment the TEC will have and the economic benefit. He said the center would not provide many jobs and the energy wouldn’t be sold locally.

“It’s hard to see how the balancing would come out … in favor,” Till said.

Greg Peden, hired by Development Partners to respond to media inquires about the TEC, has said once operational, the center will employ roughly 35 people.


To comment

To submit a comment on the wastewater permit, email Permit Writer Rob Burkhart at nwr.wqpermit@deq.state.or.us.

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