Supporting our Community in Times of Crisis
Through the many challenges 2020 brought, the MWMC has stayed committed to effectively and sustainably cleaning wastewater for the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Operations staff at our Wastewater Treatment Plant, Biosolids Management Facility and Biocycle Farm have continued to report in person to our facilities to provide essential wastewater services with added safety measures in place to protect them from transmission of COVID-19.
We continue to partner with Oregon State University and the Oregon Health Authority for statewide SARS-CoV-2 Wastewater Treatment Plant Monitoring. We have been testing samples of wastewater coming into the treatment plant weekly since September. After our sampling and lab technicians collect and prep the samples, they are sent to OSU and reported to the Oregon Health Authority. Check out the OHA's Wastewater Monitoring dashboard at the link below to learn more. The Cities of Eugene and Springfield also partnered with OSU this fall for testing throughout the local wastewater collection system concurrent with OSU TRACE COVID-19 community testing.
In addition to this COVID-19 surveillance effort, our Commission made the decision to not implement a rate increase for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 to help lessen the financial stress many families and businesses are experiencing from the pandemic. Now more than ever, effective wastewater services are imperative to a healthy community, and our team remains dedicated to supporting our employees and community during times of crisis.
In 2020, the MWMC worked hard to further its public information and education efforts, despite the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic on in-person events, presentations and tours. We sponsored virtual and socially distanced events, such as the Lane Event Center's Summer Drive-In Movie Series and EWEB's Run to Stay Warm.
We continued to engage with community members through our social media channels, seeing a 76% increase in Facebook followers, 66% increase in Instagram followers and 14% increase in Twitter followers from January to December 2020. Across all three of these social media platforms, our social media posts received a total of 192,975 impressions.
When the pandemic necessitated the cancellation of our in-person Clean Water University (CWU) field trip, we pivoted to develop a brand new virtual CWU curriculum, allowing area fifth graders to learn about their local stormwater, drinking water and wastewater systems in a remote learning environment.
Additionally, the MWMC Communications team worked alongside its partner agencies to support emergency messaging to community members for both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Holiday Farm Fire.
Protecting the Environment
We strive to achieve and maintain the best environmental standards in our daily work as we responsibly manage the region's wastewater. The MWMC is committed to clean water, community health and the environment.
In 2020, we cleaned 11.1 billion gallons of wastewater, an average of 31 million gallons per day. We also performed 32,329 water quality tests on 3,595 samples. These tests help to ensure our treatment processes are working effectively and that the water we're returning to the Willamette River complies with all permit requirements. Our state-of-the-art laboratory is also used to support other environmental programs, testing stormwater, industrial wastewater, groundwater and other samples for our partner organizations. This benefits the quality of the one water we all share. Our Wastewater Treatment Plant operates 24/7/365 for a total of 8,760 operating hours annually.
Additionally, we were again recognized with a Peak Performance Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, for the 13th consecutive year of 100% compliance with effluent discharge permit limits.
Since its inception, the MWMC has been committed to providing high quality wastewater services while being innovative in its techniques. We implement practices that help protect our environment while ensuring fiscal responsibility to our customers.
For more than 37 years, we have been producing valuable biosolids from our wastewater treatment process for beneficial reuse purposes on our Biocycle Farm or other local farm lands. In 2020, we applied 2,031 dry tons of biosolids to a total of 368 acres between our Biocycle Farm and local farmland. Additionally, we utilized more than 42 million gallons of recycled water for irrigation on our Biocycle Farm and Wastewater Treatment Plant grounds, along with processing biosolids.
Our Biocycle Farm is compromised of 400 acres of poplars on about 600 acres of agricultural land. In 2020, we continued preparations for a 116-acre harvest in 2021.
Renewable Natural Gas Project
The MWMC is embarking on an exciting project to purify biogas, a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process, in order to produce renewable natural gas (RNG). In 2020, construction of biogas purification facilities on the MWMC's Wastewater Treatment Plant grounds began, along with NW Natural's construction of a pipeline to connect these new purification facilities with an existing natural gas transmission line.
Upon project completion, nearly 100% of the biogas the MWMC produces will be converted into RNG and then injected into NW Natural's pipeline system. RNG can help to offset dirtier fossil fuels, resulting in air quality benefits and emissions reductions. The MWMC's goal is to start producing RNG in 2021.
Planning for Resiliency
The MWMC hired a consultant to identify system vulnerabilities of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and other critical MWMC infrastructure, particularly as it pertains to flooding and seismic disasters. The MWMC project team and consultant team finalized the MWMC's Disaster Mitigation and Recovery Plan in March 2020 which includes follow-up recommendations estimated at $34.6 million.
In fall 2020, the MWMC issued a request for proposals (RFP) for On-Call Engineering Services & Disaster Mitigation related to preparedness resiliency work outlined in the plan. Four consulting firms were selected in January 2021, and one or more will support disaster mitigation goals. The next step in the process is resiliency follow-up mitigation work to help achieve the plan's level of service goals following major flood or 9.0 magnitude earthquake. This resiliency planning and implementation effort will continue to occur over the next several years and will be part of the MWMC’s Capital Improvements Program.
For many years, we've been using recycled water for irrigation on our Biocycle Farm and Treatment Plant landscaping, while exploring options for other uses of recycled water with both public and private partners. Now, we're working toward producing the highest class of recycled water recognized in Oregon, approved for virtually every use where drinking-quality water is unnecessary. Every gallon of recycled water that is used for irrigation, industrial processes, wetland enhancement and other beneficial uses potentially can save a gallon of our community's drinking water, river flow or ground water supplies for other competing demands.
The MWMC is currently in the design phase for new Class A Recycled Water Disinfection Facilities. Staff also continued outreach efforts to build relationships with potential public and private partners and is preparing to launch a Recycled Water Advisory Network in 2021. Check out our updated Recycled Water webpage at the link below to learn more.
Poplar Harvest Preparation
In 2020, we continued preparations for the 116-acre harvest of poplar trees on Management Unit 3 (MU3) of our Biocycle Farm. We conducted an outreach campaign targeted for architects, builders, harvesters, planters, millers, processors, researchers and educators to further establish relationships with industry partners and explore new market uses for poplar. Regional wastewater program staff began preparations for the solicitation of bids, proposals and partnership interest, which will open in the first quarter of 2021. Check out our new Poplar Harvest webpage at the link below to learn more.
Each of us has a role to play in keeping our environment and local waterways healthy. Each year, we spend time educating individuals and businesses through pollution prevention campaigns for proper disposal of items like fats, oils and grease (FOG), as well as prescription drugs, chemicals and household items like disposable wipes and diapers.
These public education efforts were more important than ever in 2020, with community members spending more time at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and toilet paper shortages leading to more people purchasing "flushable" wipes. We participated in one of Lane County's press conferences in April 2020 to remind community members to only flush the three Ps (pee, poop and toilet paper) and also pushed out this message across a variety of communications channels such as social media and our eNewsletter. Additionally, the MWMC is a partner in the Lane County Pollution Prevention Coalition, a cooperative fostering pollution prevention efforts within the community through projects such as the Ecological Business Program (ECOBIZ).
Our pollution prevention efforts were successful in helping to reduce sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) caused by wipes and other materials being flushed down the toilet.
Whether it's returned to the Willamette River or recycled for Biocycle farm irrigation, all used water or 'wastewater' that comes from your home or business must first be cleaned; this is a federal requirement. Your monthly bill from the Springfield Utility Board (SUB) or Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) includes a wastewater fee, which is based on how much water goes down the drain for cleaning.
A portion of all residential and industrial wastewater charges goes to either the City of Eugene or City of Springfield for upkeep of the local wastewater systems, and the regional portion of the bill comes to us for cleaning the water at our Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. The rates charged to both Eugene and Springfield customers, between the regional and local fees, are below average compared to other wastewater utilities in our state. We are committed to provision of high quality wastewater services and fiscally responsible practices. To continually ensure economical use of funds, the MWMC has an annual audit of its financial records. Click here to read the latest version.