Something in the water? Camas is about to find out

City to test wastewater system pollutant levels

What’s coming into the city of Camas’ wastewater treatment plant and what’s coming out?

Camas leaders will find out within the next year, thanks to the development of a new Local Limits Development Plan, designed to monitor pollutants and develop local limits that comply with state Department of Ecology (DOE) regulations.

The local limits plan is new to Camas. Before this year, said Camas Utilities Manager Sam Adams, the DOE did not require this type of plan for the Camas wastewater treatment plant. Such a requirement is not unusual, though, Adams said, noting that other Clark County municipalites, such as Vancouver, have similar DOE language written into their wastewater treatment plant permits.

Camas recently contracted with CH2M Hill to carry out the first two phases of the plan.

Adams says the first phase, which begins this month and wraps up by July 15, is basically a roadmap showing how CH2M will test for “priority pollutants” and develop a local limits plan.

After the “roadmap” phase, CH2M will begin testing influents and effluents coming into and out of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, screening for levels of 20 different pollutants.

Those pollutants include things like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, fluoride, lead, mercury and something known as “FOG” or fats, oil and grease. Before this first phase began, the city sent questionnaires to its major industrial users, asking them about their expected levels of the 20 different pollutants.

Adams said the survey did not trigger any red flags. However, he added, the final local limits plan could have an impact on a few of the city’s largest wastewater dischargers.

“As we make ordinances and maybe limit discharges, this may impact some industrial users,” Adams told the Camas City Council on Monday, April 17, at the council’s regular meeting.

While many Camas residents may suspect that the Georgia Pacific paper mill is discharging the most into the city’s wastewater system, Adams said the plant is not the largest industrial user.

Instead, the mill discharges most of its waste through its own onsite treatment system, also regulated by the DOE.

Instead, the biggest industrial wastewater user in Camas is WaferTech, a semiconductor manufacturer.

The final plan, according to DOE requirements, must “determine which if any pollutants in addition to the 20 pollutants listed … are of potential concern to (wastewater treatment) processes and receiving waters.”

The city must submit its screening results to the DOE by Dec. 1, 2017.