Posted by A. David Rodriguez on March 16, 2002 at 13:59:01:
Pollution March 16, 2002
Since everyone appears so content when they hear about deception from our public environmental agencies and big companies like Weyerhaeuser, here’s another example of how we are misled. Occasionally I’ll provide other examples here. (Though I wish my relationship with the Register Guard hadn’t deteriorated this much, the RG has long-ago censored me, so you may never hear the truth there. Tony, are you reading this?)
Anyway, in early 1990’s, Weyerhaeuser spread hundreds of tons of sludge immediately NE of the unusual bright orange slough that DEQ inspector Tim McFettridge claimed in his OFFICIAL reports were "isolated" and "stagnant ponds" and "not connected to the McKenzie River". Of course, this slough was not isolated, nor stagnant, and in fact, flowed right into the McKenzie River, not too far upstream from EWEB’s drinking water intake. Part of what we do know is that Weyerhaeuser was discharging biocides (and chlorine originated Trihalomethanes) at this outfall into the McKenzie River. Of course, they never, ever, had a permit to discharge here. All they were allowed here is "Non-Contact Cooling Water". Was the public ever informed? Not a chance! Did DEQ intentionally secret these violations? You bet they did and Weyerhaeuser has remained out of compliance for many years! But I digress again.
What I really wanted to discuss this fine Saturday morning was another little (BIG) secret at Springfield’s Weyerhaeuser plant. As you are driving along Highway 105, just north of the plant, take notice of the large patch of fresh green grass beyond the Wreco fence. (WRECO, that is the official acronym of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company). Kind of fitting isn’t it? Anyway, this is where Weyerhaeuser documents reveal the company spread sludge. You say, "so what?" Well, in other little known Weyerhaeuser documents, it is revealed that this same Weyerhaeuser sludge contains dioxins. Of course, they never openly discuss both facts in the same document, nor the levels. Well, last year this sludge was all quietly scraped from the surface and new grass was quickly planted. You say "then so what, its been cleaned up?" Unfortunately, this relatively thin layer of sludge (3’-4’) has been leaching compounds into the groundwater for nearly 10 years. The location where this sludge was spread back then is barely over 100 yards up-gradient from Springfield’s Drinking Water wells. Luckily for Springfield, dioxins move very slowly in groundwater. How slow? Hmmm…
Sadly it seems, several callous/deceptive Weyerhaeuser activities have taken place immediately up-gradient of these Rainbow/SUB wells that were never discussed in detail in the following community, company, or State documents.
When I formally commented to DEQ and others about this sludge, I was never provided a reasonable response to those issues either. Yet not long afterwards, Weyerhaeuser was busy scraping the surface away. That’s the mark of a company who cares, after they get caught. Unfortunately, rain has been percolating through this surface layer for the last decade, I repeat, just across the highway from those City Wells. Do you think this sludge was ever mentioned in the highly comprehensive Weyerhaeuser Groundwater Cleanup Plan, ADOPTED and CERTIFIED by Oregon DEQ? Not a mention! In fact, they secreted my public comment on this and the other flawed elements when approving the cleanup plan. The Clean-up Plan is a FRAUD based on a multitude of ‘intentional’ flaws! The very model run it is based on is flawed. Sorry, I digress once again towards one of those other critical community issues.
OK, so they cleaned up the sludge. Lots of good that does after its been seeping into the groundwater for the last decade. So what was the true chemical makeup of this sludge? Do you think they will tell the public? They won’t, they can’t. Do you know why? Because much of this same sludge has been spread throughout many other community locations. Spread in the South Fields of the facility near residences and where livestock graze. Spread in Thurston. Spread in Coburg. Spread where else?
Oh yeah, some of what the company used as fill for their gigantic log pond on the north end of the facility is this same dioxin laden sludge. Of course, DEQ has known this for well over a decade. Weyerhaeuser’s (Sarcophagus-looking) OCC, that you can’t miss seeing while on your drive, was built right on top of this fill. Does everyone know why DEQ has never required Weyerhaeuser to install any monitoring wells in this expansive northern region of the plant? Do you know why the entire area was omitted from Springfield’s Drinking Water Protection Plan and the Wellhead Protection Area (WPA)? Do you know why the Springfield City Council ignored evidence that the WPA was flawed? Of course you all know why, we all know. Yet it all ties together so nicely, its like one big shady convenient agreement. Even Springfield’s County Commissioner Bill Dwyer and others with myself, pleaded that Springfield not adopt the Plan until the flaw was fixed. At least a few community representatives have the integrity to do what is right. But a similar request was made of DEQ for a Public Hearing, with letters from Congressman DeFazio and Representative Corcoran, and still DEQ wouldn’t budge. How many should fall because of the continued public deception by DEQ? Who chooses? Does this community even have an inkling of just how much they have been misled by DEQ? Not a chance. Is it time for that to change? Yep!
Certain people at Weyerhaeuser were also behind the ruin of the Oregon Rivers Museum, which I believe was because our consultants and I were beginning to ask unwanted questions about their orange discharge. (Weyerhaeuser execs are you listening?) Eugene/Springfield lost what would have been the most invaluable and popular interpretive facilities in the Northwest because of YOU. Weyerhaeuser, you then came after me using your sleazy methods because I turned you in for illegally polluting the McKenzie River. The individuals know who they are. Have you ever had the integrity to right even one of the wrongs against myself, ORM, or this community? Never! Building that filtration plant isn’t telling the whole truth either is it? Am I risking my personal safety by pursuing this for this community? Probably, but the cause is justified. Besides, I've already lost everything because I took on these powerful interests who injured this community. But when is the public going to stop being complacent? Stop waiting for someone else to act. It won’t happen! None of the (allegedly) responsible environmental agencies will take action. They can’t, they won’t, because they would have to convict themselves for their own complicit role over so many years.
So next time you drive along Highway 105, take a good long look at that big patch of fresh green grass just beyond the fence (Because of traffic, do this safely). Don’t miss that giant sarcophagus-looking building, guess you can’t miss it. Then look on the northern side of the highway at Springfield’s drinking water wells. How long you think it takes for dioxins to travel that distance?
DON'T BE COMPLACENT!
A. David Rodriguez
Founder, Oregon Rivers Museum