Malinowski wants Fanno Creek sewer plan reviewed
Commissioner calls for fines if Portland proposal produces further failures
Washington County Commissioner Greg Malinowskis preferred solution for excess wastewater near the city of Portlands Fanno Creek Pumping Station might sound a bit counterintuitive.
We can take it, he said of the problematic flows off of Southwest 86th Avenue in Garden Home. And if it was in our bailiwick, we would. Were trying to get logic back on track.
Like many of the Garden Home neighbors he represents, the commissioner is tired of waiting for the citys Bureau of Environmental Services to come up with a trouble-free solution to its wastewater flows near the station, which the bureau decommissioned in 2000. At least a dozen leaks and overflows the result of having to pump often-heavy mixes of rain and wastewater uphill for nearly three miles have been documented in recent years.
In fact, the bureau closed a section of the Fanno Creek Regional Trail on Wednesday morning to replace a section of pipe that leaked on Aug. 12. Bureau officials are asking users of the popular corridor to take a detour through Southwest Garden Home Road until the repair work is completed, which bureau spokesman Stephen Sykes said should be Saturday morning.
The pressure sewer has not been active since the recent leak in August and is expected to remain inactive through the winter, he noted, unless a large storm event requires a temporary start up of the system.
Because of these inconveniences, not to mention toxic overflows onto the trail and into Fanno Creek when the system fails, Malinowski believes the bureaus controversial plan for an even larger pumping station is an exercise in futility.
Its a huge problem, I think, for the neighborhood, he said. And its an entirely man-made problem. If it was entirely within Clean Water Services area, we would have dealt with it. But Portland decided to pump up, to the point where it dumps sewage (into pipes) over the hill, for three miles, dealing with gravity the whole way.
Washington County-based Clean Water Services flows travel by gravity down to the Durham Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility on the Tualatin River. The Portland bureau, however, must pump flows from the rugged terrain of the citys West Hills neighborhoods about 16 miles to the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant near Portland International Airport.
To accommodate Portlands replacement of a key plastic line with two steel pipes starting in 2008, Clean Water Services took nearly all the Portland flows from the area, said agency spokesman Mark Jockers. With the pumping station offline after the August spill, the agency is again taking on the flow about three-fourths of which originates from Portland households and streets, with the remainder coming from Washington County sources.
The same year, Clean Water Services provided the Portland bureau a master plan of possible options for sending some or all of the citys flow to the countys gravity-based system, Jockers noted. To pursue that option, the agency would have to take on infrastructure projects including a new wet-weather pump station in Tigard, a new force main and expand capacity at the Durham plant.
The Portland bureau rejected that proposal, however, and is moving forward with its own plan for the larger pumping station. Meanwhile, a neighboring couple appealed the Washington County Land Use and Transportation Boards September decision to permit the stations construction.
We are pursuing plans to develop and permit the Southwest 86th Avenue pumping station, said Sykes, adding that factors related to odor, noise and vibration from the facility and its two-year construction period are being addressed.
BES project staff have considered and incorporated many of the construction mitigation and operations-related recommendations from neighbors regarding these three concerns. Additionally, BES project staff have directed project designers to prioritize these three concerns while designing the new pump station.
Jockers indicated Clean Water Services remains willing to work with the city on its current plan as well as consider options in which the agency would take greater control of the West Hills flows.
Clean Water Services continues to work closely with the city to solve this problem, and we stand ready to assist however we can, he said in a statement. Our priority is to get this problem solved in order to protect public health, the neighborhood and Fanno Creek.
Pay the price
Malinowski said he doesnt have an issue with Portland engineering its own wastewater solution, provided the solution doesnt lead to the ongoing leaks and malfunctions neighbors have come to dread. However, hes convinced the city bureau should invest in extensive pipe capacity expansion before it builds yet another pumping station.
If Portland would pay for a conveyance pipe, and the additional capacity to handle it, this wouldnt be an issue, he said.
If the plan for a second pumping station remains in place, Malinowski said he would advocate for a system to penalize the Portland bureau if the new system malfunctions and closes the trail as it has in recent years.
What needs to happen is, when the pipe blows out, we need some way of fining them, he said. Now when it happens, they just say Whoops. Well work on it.
There needs to be some clauses in the (intergovernmental agreement), he added. Were trying to put some muscle in it, to put (fine) money in a fund to compensate landowners.
Its hard to sell a house overlooking a sewage spill every year.