State DEQ says city's wastewater treatment plant discharged raw sewage into Columbia River on numerous occasions

The city of Rainier will pay $23,700 for pumping raw sewage into the Columbia River on multiple occasions and failing to report the discharges to the state.

A letter sent to the city from the Department of Environmental Quality notes the city failed to comply with regulations for discharge and reporting related to its sewer system, in violation of the city's permit from DEQ.

According to DEQ, Rainier's sewer system sent raw sewage into the river 36 times from 2017 to 2018. The city never notified DEQ or residents when the sewage leaks happened.

DEQ first became aware of issues and lack of reporting when the city's water quality monitoring reports from 2013 and 2014 showed discharge levels identical to previous months, indicating the city was submitting false data.

"Given the variability in untreated wastewater and treatment processes, the probability that the treatment plant had identical monitoring results is infinitesimal," Kieran O'Donnell, DEQ's manager of compliance and enforcement, stated in a news release.

The city has 20 days from the June 27 letter to appeal the fines.

"Raw sewage poses a substantial risk to human health and is also a significant water pollutant that adversely affects water quality," the enforcement letter states. "The reporting and monitoring requirements of the city's permit are intended to ensure that DEQ and the public are made aware when sewage releases occur and to provide DEQ and the public with the assurance that operation of the city's sewage treatment plan does not endanger human health and the environment."

In lieu of the fines, Rainier has the option to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project.

Deborah Dudley, the city administrator for Rainier, did not respond to requests for comment.

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