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Sewage plant could face fines

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 25, 2009

Outage caused spill into Willamette River

OREGON CITY, Ore. – Oregon environmental officials are trying to determine whether an Oregon City treatment plant that dumped more than 2.5 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Willamette River after a power outage ran afoul of any rules.

The Tri-City Water Pollution Control Plant lost power Sunday for six hours because of high winds. The plant’s wastewater operations supervisor, Michael Trent, said there is only so much storage capacity and eventually the sewage was directed into the river to prevent sewage backups in homes and businesses.

The plant is required to have at least two separate power feeds so if one fails, there is a backup, said Lyle Christensen, natural resource specialist with the Oregon state Department of Environmental Quality

“Typically, you don’t have power outages across multiple grids, which raises the possibility that they could have been on the same circuit,” he said.

If investigators determine that the power sources weren’t properly separated, the plant could face substantial fines.

The Oregonian newspaper reported that an initial examination Monday by Portland General Electric experts indicated that an overhead line may have fallen in exactly the right place to take out two separate lines running to the plant.

Christensen will await full reports.

“If it’s outside their control, we have to take that into consideration,” he said. “If it’s something they should have been in control of, we’ll take that into consideration also.”


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