Blue River rebuild dealt a blow
Planned community sewer system would pollute waterways
September 21, 2023 | View PDF
BLUE RIVER: Lane County reported this week that the site evaluation process for a community onsite wastewater system has been completed on the Blue River Park and the Old Mill property (Three Sisters) sites. It determined that the proposed 35,000-gallon-per-day (GPD) community wastewater system would pollute both the Blue River and McKenzie River at levels that are unacceptable to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The report, however, didn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a community wastewater system in Blue River but calls for reevaluating the size of the system to determine what can be installed without polluting adjacent streams.
“In order to move forward and supply the residents of Blue River the option to connect to a community system as soon as possible,” according to a press release. “Lane County is proceeding with designing a 2,500-gallon-per-day onsite wastewater system for the Blue River Park, as well as one for the Old Mill property. Both will be permitted through Lane County. These smaller systems will be able to supply service to approximately eight homes each and will be expandable if it is determined a larger system can be installed.”
At the same time, Lane County will continue to coordinate with the DEQ to determine if a larger system can be permitted. To help with this, water monitors will be installed in existing wells on each property to evaluate the aquifer levels over a 12-month period. This information, along with running various GPD scenarios in the hydrogeological model developed by engineers and reviewed by DEQ, will be able to determine if a community wastewater system greater than 2,500 gallons per day can be installed without affecting the surrounding rivers.
The proposal for a study of a public wastewater system noted that “residential and commercial wastewater in the community of Blue River is disposed of by private onsite septic tanks and subsurface disposal fields. In general, these onsite septic systems are located on sandy loam topsoil with moderate to high infiltration rates and gravel layers which may have a connection to the river or groundwater sources. These private, onsite systems – especially those damaged in the Holiday Farm Fire – pose a risk of contamination to the McKenzie River and its tributaries.”
It also noted that the McKenzie River and its watershed is subject to the state’s “Three Basin Rule” which prohibits new or increased wastewater discharges to preserve the existing high-quality water for municipal water supplies, recreation, and aquatic life downstream.
Benefits to creating a community wastewater system in Blue River were expected to include “better protection of the McKenzie River watershed and water quality, safer, off-site wastewater disposal for residents, fewer barriers to rebuilding post-wildfire (smaller properties are struggling to site new septic tanks or drain fields required due to fire damage, and increased capacity to support economic development and opportunities.”