For Further Information
ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSION DRAWS PRAISE FOR REJECTING CITY OF PORTLAND'S BID TO CONTINUE RAW SEWAGE DUMPING
Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) praised Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) Monday, following its rejection Friday of the City of Portland's attempt to extend its timeframe for discharges of raw sewage to the Willamette River by nine years. The EQC ordered Portland in 1991 to reduce its sewage discharges over a 20 year period ending in 2011.
According to Nina Bell, Executive Director of NWEA, the EQC told the City that it was not a choice between doing watershed work and cleaning up its raw sewage. "The Commission correctly told the City that its range of excuses would not serve as a basis for not meeting its requirements to protect human health and fish in the Willamette," said Bell. "NWEA is gratified the Commission was willing to stand up to Portland. It shows that the Commission is able to put the environment before politics," she added.
NWEA sued the Portland in 1991 to halt its discharge of over six billion gallons of dilute raw sewage annually, called Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO). The City struck a deal with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) later that year to virtually end the overflows in 20 years. Later, in 1994, the City and DEQ agreed to revise their agreement, maintaining the 20 year time frame but allowing a greater number of discharges upon completion of the project. The Commissioners noted on Friday that in 1994 the City vowed it would not return to the EQC for an extension to the agreement.
"Last week the City's primary message was that it will only reduce erosion, clean-up toxic chemicals, reduce pollution in its stormwater, and restore streams if, and only if, it is allowed to discharge two billion gallons of raw sewage to the Willamette each year for nine more years," said Bell. "This is a fallacy of the highest proportions because the City has to do all of those things and more under the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund, and the Endangered Species Act. The City does not have the luxury of picking and choosing which laws it wants to meet and the Commission recognizes that."
The City was before the EQC seeking its agreement to establish an independent panel to compare its current CSO program with its proposed Clean River Plan which includes the nine-year extension. The Commissioners noted that the extension was purely a policy issue that did not merit convening a panel and encouraged the City instead to find ways of funding the watershed elements of its plan.
"The central problem is that the City wants sewer ratepayers to shoulder the burden of every action it needs to take to save salmon, restore habitat, and clean up pollution," said Bell. "The Commission encouraged them to look in many other places so that they can meet their obligations and do all the right things."
The 1994 agreement between the EQC and the City is contained in an administrative Order that was incorporated in a Consent Decree that settled the federal lawsuit brought by NWEA.
- E N D -
133 SW 2nd Ave., Portland, OR 97204-3526 (503) 295-0490 FAX 295-6634