As this year has proven, we are truly stronger together. Our dedicated partner organizations, volunteers, visionary Board and resilient staff continue to do extraordinary work in this unprecedented time, creating the outcomes that people, businesses and the Tualatin River Watershed need to grow and thrive.
The CWS team has adapted from emergency operations to a new normal in operations in response to the pandemic, continuing all along to deliver reliable and efficient services to our communities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I’ve been with Clean Water Services for 10 years now, and I see the next 10 years as a critical time, a decade of tremendous challenge and opportunity. To me, the greatest challenges are the chaos and fear that accompanies crises — such as climate change, pandemic, social upheaval, drought and wildfire, floods and earthquakes — that are happening simultaneously and interacting in powerful and often destructive ways.
Yet when I look at our customers, Board, staff, volunteers and partner organizations, I feel hope. Together, we have proven that we can rise and meet challenges as partners in service to people and the environment, working together for a healthy Tualatin River Watershed.
Diane Taniguchi-Dennis, CEO
Leading Research on COVID-19 in Wastewater
Using new analytical techniques, researchers can find evidence of the virus at the neighborhood scale, which could provide an early warning sign of the virus in a community.
New Molecular Lab Powers Regional Virus Study
The droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) technology in CWS’ molecular biology lab processes vital tests as part of the sewer surveillance study in partnership with Oregon State University. The ddPCR system is one of only a handful located in the Pacific Northwest, and the second in Oregon after OSU.
Lessons in Distance Learning
After several months of distance learning under our belts, the CWS education team refined virtual programming and hands-on tools to support learners and teachers.
Historic Wildfire and Smoke
At work and at home, just like our neighbors, CWS staff strove to stay safe and productive amidst wildfires and hazardously smoky air. Historic wildfires were just one example of crises nested within crises during this pandemic year.
Sustaining Kindness While Keeping Distance
CWS employees have expressed care for each other by practicing pandemic precautions — such as masks, physical distancing and vaccination — and by reaching out to one another throughout the pandemic. CWS provided each employee with a Wellness Kit and sponsored activities to foster connection.
Rising to Challenges and Changes
- CWS began releasing cool water from Hagg Lake and Barney Reservoir into the Tualatin River on May 3 to maintain flows and protect water quality and fish habitat in the river. The release was the earliest on record.
- Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law requiring “do not flush” labels on disposable wipes on June 8. CWS staff were instrumental in the long journey to pass this legislation.
- In June, a chlorine shortage threatened operations at CWS and other water utilities along the West Coast. CWS received enough chlorine to weather the crisis, and asked customers to reduce their water use to help conserve the supply.
Recovering Resources: Water Reuse
In one year, CWS provided 75 million gallons (including onsite use) of irrigation water to more than 218 acres of athletic fields, golf courses and parks from the Durham facility.
Recovering Resources: Energy
We also generated approximately 21.5 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy by capturing digester gas from the Rock Creek and Durham facilities, as well as solar power at Durham to meet approximately 47% of the electrical demands for the Durham and Rock Creek facilities.
Recovering Resources: Nutrients
We recycled phosphorus and ammonia at the Durham and Rock Creek facilities to produce more than 840 tons of Crystal Green® fertilizer to sell at commercial nurseries and in the agricultural industry.
Recovering Resources: Water Reuse
We worked with the DEQ to expand our recycled water use program to include supporting native wetland plant growth.
Chicken Creek Channel Realignment & Floodplain Enhancement
CWS and other Tree for All partners enhanced over 2,000 feet of stream channel with large wood habitat structures and riparian vegetation in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. The project will create more than two miles of stream habitat, enable native plants throughout the 300-acre site and reconnect Chicken Creek to its historic floodplain.
Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Crews built new bridges, walking paths and a new pump station. Multiple partners — including Intel, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, Joint Water Commission, USGS, Metro and Bonneville Environmental Foundation — have contributed funding and worked collaboratively on planning and implementing these and other projects at the refuge.
Cedar Mill Creek
CWS began construction on a two-year project that replaces critical infrastructure while adding needed creek and floodplain resilience in and around Tualatin Hills Nature Park. This generational investment will address infrastructure, environmental and community needs in coordination with THPRD, Washington County and other partners, and has included bilingual outreach to the community.
Fanno Creek: Denney-to-Hall
CWS partnered with THPRD and Metro to reestablish the natural flow of Fanno Creek by replacing two undersized culverts with a pedestrian bridge, realigning the stream, creating a depressional floodplain wetland, reintroducing native plant communities and more.
Optimizing and Stabilizing Biological Phosphorus Removal
In May 2021, a new state-of-the-art aeration basin was commissioned at our Durham facility. The new basin is designed with the best industry knowledge to achieve stable biological phosphorous removal. We also completed a phosphorus study to update the Tualatin River phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The study assessed the capabilities of the water resource recovery facilities to remove phosphorus without adding tertiary alum — which produces some cost savings and considerable environmental benefit — and monitored the effects on the river.
Optimizing Monitoring Networks
The CWS Internet of Things team demonstrated that a low-cost, reliable, modular, scalable and fit-for-purpose sensor network can be used to monitor water quality and flow information — making CWS the first U.S. utility to adopt and expand this do-it-yourself approach. The team has developed and deployed 25 stations to support a variety of projects, at less than half the cost for commercial sensors.
Optimizing Asset Management
We developed an asset management system to maintain critical equipment and implement project planning and resource management and reduce the need for external laboratory analytical support. The system has already saved over $100,000.
Optimizing Bird Habitat
A five-year study by Portland Audubon revealed increased bird activity, the number of different species, and overall bird abundance at Fernhill as a result of creating natural treatment systems. Fernhill is an important stopover area for wintering waterfowl and migrating birds traveling the Pacific Flyway.
Optimizing the Permitting Process
In December 2020, CWS applied for a new watershed-based NPDES permit that combines wastewater and stormwater permits and allows water quality trading. We also developed an Integrated Plan to establish an innovative long-term permitting strategy. DEQ found the application administratively complete and extended the current permit past the expiration date. We’re working with the agency to finalize details of a new permit.
APWA 2020 Project of the Year
The Tualatin Interceptor Project was named Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association. This multiyear $34 million upgrade involved 11,000 linear feet of pipe, two vertically curved siphons under the Tualatin River and restoration of several areas. Project partners included Mortensen Construction, Kennedy Jenks and K&E excavation
Financial Reporting Awards
The Government Finance Officers Association recognized CWS for Excellence in Financial Reporting and Distinguished Budget Presentation. The honors highlight CWS’ commitment to the highest quality financial reporting and transparency, and meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.
National Recognition for Water Resource Recovery
CWS was recognized in the Watershed Stewardship category in the Utility of the Future Today program. The program celebrates the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities. Three of our water resource recovery facilities also earned awards for 100% permit compliance from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; one has met this milestone for more than five consecutive years. Another facility earned an award for fewer than five permit exceptions.
Leadership and Passion
Nora Curtis was honored as PNCWA Woman of the Year for her contributions as a leader, mentor, communicator and advocate. Bob Baumgartner won the Tualatin Riverkeepers Green Heron Award for his passion for water quality.