Oregon federal and state environmental regulation have given the okay to Dickinson Frozen Foods’ (Dickinson) plans to discharge the Fruitland, Ore., facility’s food processing wastewater into the Payette River.
According to the U.S. EPA’s website, Dickinson had applied for the permit in March 2012 and the application was updated on July 31, 2018. The permit states the company must monitor effluent and surface water, submit discharge monitoring reports, and have written plans for Quality Assurance and Best Management Practices for the plant. This permit would be good for five years.
The U.S. EPA website describes the treatment process as consisting of “screens, dissolved air flotation, biofilm reactor (MBBR) and a disc filter. The MBBR system consists of an activated sludge aeration system where the sludge is collected on recycled plastic carriers. The carriers have a large internal surface for optimal contact of water, air and bacteria. The process is used for the removal of organic substances, nitrification and denitrification.”
According to The Argus Observer out of Ontario, Ore., the company’s production wastewater currently goes to the City of Fruitland wastewater treatment plant. Dickinson pre-treats its wastewater before it goes to the plant. The pre-treatment will continue to be required under the National Pollution Discharge (NPDES) permit from the U.S. EPA.
The U.S. EPA announced, in a federally published note, it is proposing to issue the permit to Dickinson. The U.S. EPA’s Region 10 office has determined to issue the permit, according to the notice.
Brian Howell, Fruitland mayor, said the city has concerns about Dickinson discharging the pollutants not far upstream from Ontario’s drinking water plant. According to Howell, Fruitland officials only became aware of the permits a couple weeks prior through “non-official means,” not from the U.S. EPA.
“The City of Fruitland was not on the notification list for the permit, which I find a little weird, for lack of a better term, and we had to actually call them and talk to them and they finally sent us the permit information,” Howell said.
The mayor said it is important that residents are made aware of the situation.
“It’s in the public comment period now, and we will of course file some public comments because it’s going to be upstream from where we pull our water for the city drinking water out of the river,” Howell said.
Suzanne Pearcy, Deputy City Clerk and Fruitland treasurer and utilities billing specialist, said the the company’s sewer bills ranged from about $50,000 to about $80,000 in the last year. In January of the year the city began charging Dickinson at the lowest rate. The lowest rate, Tier 1, resulted in this year’s bills being sharply lowers, about $18,000 to be exact.
According to Howell, the city does not make any money by processing Dickinson’s wastewater.