Response to Information Presented in Media Concerning City's Recycled Water Plant Project

Release Date: 

The City of Hermiston would like to clarify some facts regarding claims made in today's Hermiston Herald editorial about the City's planned wastewater treatment plant upgrade. The editorial concluded that the City of Pendleton's new wastewater treatment plant "won this round" over Hermiston's planned upgrade. We don't agree that there is a winner or loser here, unless it's confusion winning out over facts.

It is true, as the editorial notes, that the Hermiston upgrade will cost more than Pendleton's upgrade did, but that is because Hermiston is building a larger plant at the outset: a capacity of 3.3 million gallons per day compared to Pendleton's 2 million gallons per day. Like the Pendleton plant, the Hermiston plant will be expandable as needed in the future.

It is not true that the Pendleton plant will remove pharmaceuticals any better than Hermiston's will.  The two plants will have virtually identical membrane systems for such removal, both equally effective. Neither plant's technology removes pharmaceuticals entirely, but both reduce the levels significantly.

Also, while it is true that that all membranes have troubles handling fats, oil and greases in wastewater, this is not a concern-the plant is designed to remove those elements before the wastewater reaches the membranes.

The editorial rightly commends Pendleton for the green energy elements at its new plant. Pendleton installed a solar array that nets some energy. Pendleton also retrofitted the plant's digesters to produce biogas and recover this energy with turbines; however, that element was added only after Pendleton installed a first round of improvements and received favorable bids, making it feasible to implement the second component. Hermiston too will consider green energy options if project bids come in favorably and a suitable cost recovery can be shown.

The Herald's editorial misses the mark in contending that Kennedy Jenks (designer of both the Hermiston and Pendleton plant upgrades) "assured" the City of funding through a Bureau of Reclamation grant program for recycled water projects. Kennedy Jenks did inform the City of this potential program, but the decision to pursue this funding came only after consulting with Bureau of Reclamation staff, Representative Greg Walden, Senator Ron Wyden, and others. Unfortunately, the law authorizing the funding has not been passed by Congress, though it is still supported by Senator Wyden and Representative Walden.

It is disappointing that the Hermiston Herald's editorial made so many misleading claims when the facts are easily verifiable.  We're not sure who "won this round," but it seems that the truth was the loser.

Brad Bogus, PE
Senior Engineer
Tetra Tech, Inc.

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