Portland plant guilty of water pollution, fined $500,000
A Northwest Portland plant that promises "recycling and reclaiming" services for gunky grease traps will pay a hefty penalty — for pouring the fatty oils down the drain.
The $538,500 in combined civil fees and sewer charges to be paid by Oregon Oils, Inc. is the largest amount ever recovered by the Bureau of Environmental Services' compliance program.
"This is an incredibly egregious event," said bureau director Mike Jordan in an interview. "This stuff mucks up our system. It gets caught up in pump stations and shuts down the pump, which can create all kinds of back-up problems."
According to the violation notice sent to Oregon Oils, sanitation workers had to dislodge "heavy accumulations" at the Yeon Pump Station at least 11 times between January and April, 2018.
With a pattern emerging, BES installed temperature probes and cameras at manholes directly up- and down-stream of the industrial facility at 2515 N.W. 29th Ave. The monitors recorded discharges into the sewage system that were heated up to 181 degrees fahrenheit — well above the official 149 degree limit.
In a likely effort to save money, the company used hot water to heat up the oil and avoid immediate detection or back-ups, says Jordan.
"Once the cooling occurred, then we got clogs," the director added.
Established in 1992, Oregon Oils was issued a permit to release waste into the sewer system at its current location in 2017. According to its website, Oregon Oils collects the grease build-up at fast-food joints, schools and nursing homes for free, claiming that the waste is refined into biodiesel fuel.
"Recklessly disposing of used oil is a big threat," the company states. "Customers can be proud of making a choice that's both financially rewarding for their business and great for the environment."
As part of a stipulated agreement, Oregon Oils must upgrade its pretreatment equipment and improve the city's ability to monitor discharges before they can reconnect to the municipal pipe network. The facility also is on two years' probation after it pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree water pollution in a case brought by Oregon State Police, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Justice.
"We're dedicated to complying with the requirements that we have set forth in our agreement," said Matt Burns, Oregon Oils' general manager. "We look forward to getting back on track and continuing to serve the community."