Water Environment Services

Water Environment Services

Pressure Washing and Surface Cleaning

What's the problem?

Although convenient for cleaning surfaces and equipment, pressure washing can send dirty runoff containing oil, soap, chemicals, metals, and sediment into the storm drain system. Most storm drains have zero to minimal treatment and drain directly toward the surface water and groundwater we all need to protect.

Here’s how our waters are being negatively impacted:

  • Sediment clouds the water, hinders aquatic plant growth, and clogs fish gills.
  • Even biodegradable soaps rob water of life-giving oxygen.
  • Household hazardous wastes, like pesticides, paints, solvents, and auto fluids that collect on driveways and other outside surfaces can poison aquatic life. Animals and people can become sick or die after consuming polluted water or fish.
  • Ingestion of pre-1978 paint flakes containing lead can be a concern as it can result in intellectual disabilities in children.
  • Avoid using hot water and chemicals as that type of wastewater has a greater negative environmental effect.

Do not allow dirty wash water to enter the stormwater system.

What can you do?

Common practices such as these can pollute our water:

Sweeping the street

1.
Use dry cleanup methods first (sweep, blow, vacuum). Dispose of debris in the trash.

Soak up fluids with cat litter

2.
Soak up oil and fluids using absorbents (cat litter, sawdust, sand) and dry-cleanup methods before washing. This, too, goes in the trash.

Wash debris towards landscape

3.
Direct dirty runoff into a lawn or landscaped area away from the storm drain system.

(If wash water cannot be directed to landscaped areas, collect for disposal to the sanitary sewer via a clean out, toilet, or sink.)

Follow EPA guidelines for paint

4.
Follow EPA lead paint guidelines if pre-1978 era paint is involved.

Tips for using your pressure washer

Our Partner

Oregon Association of Cleanwater Agencies Clackamas Water Environment Services is proud to partner with The Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies (ACWA) to protect and enhance Oregon’s water quality. ACWA developed the information (provided above) in collaboration with groundwater, stormwater and education experts dedicated to practical and proactive water resources protection.

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Looking to Hire a Landscape Maintenance Service?

Healthy Water. Healthy Plants. Healthy Families.Ask your landscape maintenance contractor to use these best management practices to help protect our waters, our environment and those you love!

Why bother with best management practices?

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are designed to protect both our streams and underground drinking water quality, and to prevent clogging our stormwater facilities. Implementing BMPs can make a positive difference to help protect our waters, properties, and public health.

Best Management Practices

  • Do not blow or sweep trash, yard debris, soils or chemicals into street or storm drains. Collect and properly dispose of these materials.
  • Properly compost or dispose of debris daily.
  • Inspect and safely clean onsite landscape stormwater facilities (e.g., rain gardens, swales) to ensure they operate as designed.
  • Mow high, often, and with sharp blades.
  • Store fertilizers and other chemicals under cover.
  • Purchase the least amount of landscape chemicals needed for your site.
  • Use integrated pest management practices.
  • Adjust sprinklers to minimize irrigation overspray.
  • Check local rules! Never stockpile landscaping material (e.g., dirt, bark chips, sand gravel) in the roadway or on pervious pavement unless your municipality allows it.
  • Roots hold soils in place. Plant slopes with dense ground covering plants to prevent erosion.

Important measures you can take

Do NOT apply pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers under windy conditions, or when rain, snow, sleet or hail is predicted within the next 48 hours.

Fertilizer application schedule

What is wrong with this picture?

Common practices such as these can pollute our water:

Spraying pesticides

1.
Over spraying fertilizer/pesticides on the sidewalk and applying them under wet conditions.

Using a leaf blower

2.
Raking or blowing leaves and grass off yard and into streets.

Pet waste

3.
Leaving pet waste that can carry bacteria to waterways.

Sweeping materials into the street

4.
Stockpiling landscape material into the street where it can be a driving safety hazard, clog drains, and result in pollution.

Sprinklers and irrigation

5.
Allowing irrigation overspray to enter waterways.

Depending on where you are, stormwater can either travel to a stream or river, soak into the ground through landscaped facilities, or be injected towards underground water supplies. Therefore, it is important to keep our stormwater clean.

Our Partner

Oregon Association of Cleanwater Agencies Clackamas Water Environment Services is proud to partner with The Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies (ACWA) to protect and enhance Oregon’s water quality. ACWA developed the information (provided above) in collaboration with groundwater, stormwater and education experts dedicated to practical and proactive water resources protection.

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Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility

In 1986, the Tri-City wastewater treatment facility came online to replace obsolete treatment plants in Oregon City and West Linn. Today, the Tri-City facility cleans more than 11 million gallons of wastewater every day before it is released into the Willamette River. The wastewater is collected by a WES-owned-and-operated network of more than 360 miles of sewer pipes and pump stations. The Tri-City facility plays a large role in allowing WES to clean more than seven billion gallons of wastewater every year.

The Tri-City facility provides primary and secondary stages of wastewater treatment. Wastewater flows through screens that remove large objects like rags or sticks. The sewage then passes into a grit chamber, where heavier materials like rocks, silt and sand are removed.

How we clean the water

The secondary stage of treatment allows solids (a byproduct of waste) to settle before disinfection begins. Beneficial bacteria and air are pumped into an aeration basin to clean the wastewater as it flows to the secondary clarifiers. The membrane bioreactor uses fine screens, microbiology and filtration to remove environmentally-harmful materials.

Anaerobic digestion uses microorganisms to break down organic materials, which generate biogas (mostly methane and carbon dioxide) in the absence of air. The methane gas is then converted to heat and power, which provides electricity that is used at WES’ Tri-City facility. The digestion process also converts waste into a natural fertilizer. Ultraviolet or chemical disinfection (we use both methods) neutralizes microorganisms, preventing them from replicating.

In 2020, the Tri-City facility received a Peak Performance Gold Standard Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for excellence in plant operations and permit compliance.

Expanding Capacity: The Tri-City Solids Handling Project

Digester cross-sectionIn September 2020, Clackamas Water Environment Services (WES) marked a major milestone in its Tri-City Solids Project, which provides facilities designed to ensure that the wastewater treatment needs of more than 190,000 county residents will be met for decades to come. 

A new 1.3 million gallon anaerobic digester, constructed over a two-year period at WES’ Tri-City Water Resource Recovery facility in Oregon City, was successfully brought online after years of planning and design.

Anaerobic digestion is similar to composting but in an oxygen-free environment. Naturally-occurring microorganisms break down organic waste and produce methane gas. The new digester expands the facility’s capacity to process solids, which are a byproduct of treating wastewater from homes and businesses.

“This project is part of WES’ mission to protect public health, clean rivers, and the economy,” said WES Director Greg Geist. “WES is committed to creating a legacy of stewardship and a strong infrastructure that will protect and serve our communities today and well into the future.”

Along with the facility’s two existing digesters, the new digester will turn waste into methane gas that is converted to heat and power, which provides nearly half of the electricity used at the Tri-City facility and provides heat for the process and buildings The digester process also converts the solids into a natural soil amendment.

The new digester was needed to accommodate a population that has more than doubled over the past 30 years. In addition to protecting public health and the environment, the new digester will support future economic growth in the region.

At the official groundbreaking ceremony In September 2018, WES Leadership was joined by County Commissioners, WES Advisory Committee members, representatives from the cities of Gladstone, Happy Valley, Johnson City, Milwaukie, Oregon City, West Linn, unincorporated Clackamas County, members of the business community, contractors and other partners.

“As our region grows and redevelops while our infrastructure continues to age, we’ll see the need for more projects like this one in the future,” said WES Director Greg Geist. “WES is committed to using value engineering and other practices to keep costs down while ensuring the lowest-risk, state-of-the-art technology is being used.”

Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard said, “This project supports some of the county’s top priorities, which include building a strong infrastructure, ensuring safe, healthy and secure communities and growing a vibrant economy. WES is a premier utility that is proactively taking steps to ensure that outstanding and affordable service will be provided to its customers for decades to come.”

In 2021, many of those same partners will return to the Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility for a celebration ceremony when the Tri-City Solids Project is complete. 

Our Timeline

Aug. 2018

Aug. 2018 progress
Final preparations are made at the new digester construction site on the Tri-City campus in Oregon City.

Sept. 2018

Sept. 2018 progress
For the official groundbreaking ceremony, WES Leadership was joined by County Commissioners, WES Advisory Committee members, representatives from the cities of Gladstone, Happy Valley, Johnson City, Milwaukie, Oregon City, West Linn, unincorporated Clackamas County, members of the business community, contractors and WES partners.

Feb. 2019

Feb. 2019 progress
Deep excavation was completed for the new solids facility. The foundation for the new digester was completed with concrete for the wall sections being poured. Foundation work for the new solids handling structure began.

May 2019

Aug. 2018 progress
A big project milestone is reached as the new 1.3 million gallon digester (lower right) passes a key “water-holding” test, which allows the project to proceed.

Aug. 2019

Aug. 2019 progress
The new digester construction is nearly complete. The new solids handling structure foundation is completed, while concrete for the southern walls are being formed and poured. Centrifuge feed tanks excavation is underway

Feb. 2020

Feb. 2020 progress
The roof deck on the new solids handling structure is being set in place with the walls now completed. The new digester’s exterior walls are complete, with interior and exterior piping work underway. Centrifuge feed tank structural concrete work has been completed.

June 2020

June 2020 progress
Roofing work on all facilities is underway. Site Civil and Yard piping beginning to commence.

Oct. 2020

Oct. 2020 progress
Structural concrete work on the new solids handling structure roof deck is underway in the truck load out. The new digester and centrifuge feed tank concrete work is completed.

Spring 2021

Oct. 2020 progress
An artist rendering of what the competed Tri-City Solids Project will look like in the spring of 2021.

Building the new digester

Testing Water Quality for Safety

Testing your water in the WES lab.Testing water quality for safety, the Tri-City Water Quality Lab performs nearly 30,000 analyses per year, including hundreds of tests per month on samples collected from Tri-City, to check the health of water at every step of the wastewater treatment process.

The testing ensures that WES meets discharge requirements for the Willamette River and provides information to optimize operations at Tri-City. In addition, samples from the other WES facilities and surface water facilities are also analyzed.

Practicing Sustainability to Minimize Impact

Checking on the digesterWES is committed to responsible stewardship, recovery of resources and demonstrating leadership in sustainable business practices.

WES employees are dedicated to following and promoting solid sustainability practices to reduce the environmental impacts of all our activities. WES is proud to have achieved certification in the county’s Leaders in Sustainability program by conserving energy and water at our Tri-City facility and minimizing waste throughout our department.

The Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) uses hollow-fiber membranes to separate particles from water. The MBR’s compact footprint requires fewer components than pressurized systems and provides simple, trouble-free operation and maintenance. The MBR saves both energy and precious water resources.

Conserving Energy, Protecting the Environment

Our Water Drop mascotWES has saved millions of kilowatt hours at our Tri-City facility by participating in Energy Trust of Oregon’s Strategic Energy Management Program, which helps organizations train their employees to identify energy-saving opportunities.

After signing up for the program, WES employees identified 104-energy saving possibilities at the Tri-City campus. Since then, WES has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs, which benefits the environment and our customers. WES is now in the process of expanding the program’s practices to more of our facilities.

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