Clackamas County Agrees to Expand System

To protect Willamette River quality and avoid further state environmental violations and fines, the Board of Clackamas County (Ore.) Commissioners is voluntarily entering into a mutual agreement order with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The North Clackamas County area must have an expanded sewage treatment system in place by 2010 or face monetary penalties, the state environmental agency told Clackamas County officials late last month. The agency has determined that Clackamas County Service District No. 1 has an increased number of violations of its water discharge permit for the Kellogg Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Milwaukie. The agency also said there is inadequate treatment capacity for the district. The county must adhere to a tight timeline to correct the situation, the agency concluded.

"It is no longer a question of 'if,' but 'when' we take action to protect our rivers and public health," said Commissioner Lynn Peterson. "We're prepared to move now. The community and the environment will benefit."

Currently service district is diverting about 15 percent of its sewage flow to the plant operated by the Tri-City Service District in Oregon City. The Capacity Management Plan approved by the board late last year will expand the Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant to handle a higher level of waste for both districts through 2015. It also will make efficiency improvements at Kellogg Creek, an older plant, and a system of pipes from north Clackamas County will be built to connect to Tri-City.

"Fortunately we have an investment plan to comply with the DEQ order," Peterson said. "The first parts of this estimated $120 million-plus package already are out to bid and construction starts this summer."

"The state has been cooperative and patient with CCSD#1, knowing a solution -- known as Phase 1 -- has been in the works for several years. But now, DEQ insists on immediate remedies," Peterson added.

Next month the board will consider a plan to issue bonds to finance construction. Existing district customers and new development will pay for these improvements. User rates and system development charges for new commercial and residential construction are under review.

"It is time for us to move forward and make these important investments for our community livability -- today and into the future," said Commissioner Martha Schrader. "With construction costs continuing to rise, we can't afford to delay action much longer."

A detailed look at the county's wastewater challenges and proposed solutions may be viewed at the new Capacity Management Program Web site, www.riverhealth.org. The Phase 1, or short-term plan, meets the criteria set by the agency in the mutual agreement order. Not affected is the community discussion about long-term solutions, known as Phase 2. A community task force is reviewing those options and is expected to wrap up its recommendations in June.

The district provides retail sanitary sewer and surface water management services to unincorporated portions of North Clackamas County and the city of Happy Valley, as well as wholesale wastewater treatment services to the city of Milwaukie, portions of Gladstone and Johnson City.

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