Multiple agencies react to manure spill at Port’s digester operation

A manure release occurred from the Regenisis anaerobic digester, at the Port of Tillamook Bay Monday July 22.                                            

On Monday, July 22 the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) received notification from the Oregon Emergency Response System (OERS) that a release occurred from the Regenisis anaerobic digester, at the Port of Tillamook Bay. First Strike Environmental responded and has been on site since noon on July 22.

According to a release from DEQ, upon further investigation, it was discovered that approximately 300,000 gallons of partially digested manure, digestate, was released and travelled from the digester to Anderson Creek. There is a 4-foot berm surrounding the digester with two entrances. According to Andrea Cantu-Schomus, Director of Communications for the ODA, the Port of Tillamook Bay bulldozed the entrances closed to contain the digestate.

According to Michele Bradley, General Manager of the Port of Tillamook Bay (POTB), “the bulk of the manure was contained on the digesters,” she told the Headlight Herald. “Manure that was at the digester made it into the system – the POTB does not know how much, but there was 6 inches of standing manure in portions of the digester slab area that was then pushed and recycled into the digester, lessening the impact of what might have made it into the stormwater system.”

Bradley could not confirm how much that may have been.

“The POTB does not have a total gallon number on what might have made it into the stormwater system,” she said. “It was tank two, which is a finishing tank of the bay. The manure came from an overflow tank after a technical malfunction.  The Port is almost 6 miles via waterway to Tillamook bay. It is not a source of drinking water.”

The POTB is the owner of the tank and is responsible for the Stormwater system via a DEQ General Permit, so it is in charge of all stormwater discharge within the industrial park.

“There has been testing from the DEQ, ODA, and Oregon Fish and Wildlife, among others,” Bradley said. “A vacuum truck was brought to the location and has been sucking water out of the bay. The POTB doesn’t know the impact of the downstream yet but DEQ tested on Tuesday, July 23.”

The POTB’s stormwater system was built by the Navy when they built the Naval Air Station for WWII. It includes groundwater as well. The Port has a settling pond near the outfall and before Highway 101 that holds millions of gallons of water. From there, it travels under the highway via Anderson Creek, joins with South Prairie Creek, and enters the Tillamook River, then into Tillamook Bay.

“DEQ and ODA have taken and will continue to take samples from various locations in and around the site. The analysis of the samples is expected soon,”  Cantu-Schomus said. “Because the material is digestate and now raw sewage, there are no restrictions for shellfish operators or recreational harvesters in Tillamook Bay at this time.” As sampling results are completed, ODA will decide whether to issue any restrictions. ODA has reached out to all produces in the area to share information about the release of the digestate.

According to the release, results of water samples taken from Tillamook Bay indicate there was no impact on water quality in the bay from the release of treated manure waste at the Regenis facility. As a result, analysts with the Oregon Department of Agriculture shellfish and food safety programs have determined that the release does not pose a health risk and no action is required by shellfish harvesters.

Water samples taken from the Regenis outfall pipe at Anderson Creek did show elevated levels of e coli, but downstream tests did not show elevated e coli levels. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is working with the Port of Tillamook Bay on ways to further contain the contaminated water at the outfall.

The ODA will continue to monitor water quality in the bay by taking additional samples and testing for potential contamination.

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