Dec 28, 2000

Environmentalists Oppose Oregon Wastewater Proposal

When the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality proposed to give an Albany, Ore.-based special metals and chemicals manufacturer permission to dilute its wastewater in two nearby streams, environmentalists jumped to the case, reports The Oregonian.

The Oregon DEQ has proposed to issue Oregon Metallugical Corp., now Oremet, a permit to pump wastewater into certain parts of Oak Creek and Calapooia River, on the basis that the treated wastewater keeps the flow up for fish. The creek otherwise would dry up each summer, according to state officials.

Environmentalists claim the proposal ignores the Clean Water Act criticize the DEQ for not testing Oremet's wastewater effects on salmon in the Calapooia, which is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the area.

"DEQ has still not forced this company to get all the information together it needs," the article quotes Nina Bell, an attorney with Northwest Environmental Advocates. "They don't even know what the temperature impacts to salmon are, even though this (permit) application was submitted in 1995."

However, the DEQ claimed feasibility and cost needed to be taken into consideration. To pump wastewater into the larger Willamette River two miles away would be too expensive or difficult, officials said.

"Practically no discharges can meet water-quality standards at the end of their pipe," said Barbara Burton, the agency's senior policy analyst who wrote the rule. "We've attempted to get folks out of smaller streams when practical. But there are circumstances where a facility has already been built, it's been there for a long time, and it's too far from a receiving stream."

Oremet pumps 1.5 million gallons of wastewater daily into Oak Creek, discharging with it ammonia, chloride, metals and other solids. Oremet has violated its wastewater permit regularly in the past and has paid more than $35,000 in fines for exceeding limits of a variety of contaminants.

(Source: The Oregonian)