Water Wisdoms | February 2023 Newsletter
National Recognition for Renewable Natural Gas Facility
This week, MWMC was officially honored by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) with a National Environmental Achievement Award in the Water Resources Utility of the Future category for its new Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) Facility. RNG project manager Mark Van Eeckhout accepted the award on behalf of MWMC at NACWA's Winter Conference in Sonoma, CA.

The RNG facility cleans biogas, a byproduct of the water treatment process, and collects purified methane to be injected into NW Natural’s pipeline. The facility completed its first year of operation in 2022. Treatment plant staff spent much of the year optimizing the processes of the facility and performing the maintenance necessary to accomplish that. Even with the regular downtime, the facility injected 58.8 million cubic feet of RNG into the energy grid, which is enough to give nearly 5,300 homes a one-year supply of natural gas. The new facility will continue to help MWMC accomplish its goals of creating sustainable, environmentally conscious solutions while providing another source of revenue to help keep rates affordable.
Planting Officially Begins on Poplar Tree Farm
New trees are being planted at our Biocycle Farm! Our partners from the Northwest Youth Corps began putting whips in the ground last Friday. We use offshoot growths (called whips) from the stumps of our previously harvested trees to plant new trees, reducing the need to purchase new whips. The varietal of poplar tree that we’re planting this year has been selected for its resilience and excellent growth, so we anticipate a strong harvest in approximately 12 years (knock on poplar wood)! Our poplar trees help absorb the nutrients from biosolids, which is more sustainable than sending biosolids to the landfill or incinerating them. We also make biosolids available to local grass seed farmers who can use it as fertilizer on their crops.
Meet the Team: Carrie Holmes, Billing Specialist
How long have you worked for City of Springfield/MWMC?
I’ve been with the City of Springfield for five years, and I’ve been in my current role for three years. My first position at the City was in finance, and then I moved over to this job. I was a stay-at-home mom for about 14 years, and I loved every minute of it. Best job I’ve ever had. When I went back to work, I was the market manager at the Lane County Farmer’s Market for several years before I came here.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
I have a lot of reoccurring tasks every month. I do industrial billing for stormwater and wastewater for eight accounts every month, and I manage billing of about 40 commercial accounts. During the wintertime I get tons of calls. That’s because people have leaks, and up until November they’ve been on their summer average billing, so oftentimes people won’t even realize they have a leak until they get their December billing, and suddenly their usage goes from five units on average to 40 units. So most of wintertime is spent reaching out to people that call and working with them to get wastewater credits for leak issues they’re having. And I’m the only person that handles the whole city of Springfield, so it gets really busy!

Can you explain what the water leak relief process is like for people who don’t know?
People contact me after Springfield Utility Board has contacted them to let them know they have a leak or after they get a bill that shocks them, and then we start the investigation process. We can go through their water usage history and see what happened. So if you were at 5 units average usage per month, and now you’re at 45, then it’s pretty obvious that something is going on. We don’t require any paperwork, we just gather what the nature of the leak was, the date of repair, and who did the repair. After that repair is done, we wait 30 days to make sure that the usage is back down to normal, because we want to make sure the issue was fixed. Then we issue a 100% credit to them for the difference between the high-read wastewater bill and their average usage.

I just recently had one that was like a $2,000 leak, and when they’re used to a $56 wastewater bill, they can’t afford to pay it. SUB is really good at working with people and helping them through that process. If they know a credit is coming in a month, they’re not going to expect the whole thing to be paid up front. So I really do enjoy helping people in that regard.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I’m a numbers person, so any chance I get to put data together. I’m just a nerd like that. I do enjoy talking to people, because I feel like I’m really helping them. A lot of people are stressed, because when you have a bad water leak it can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, so they’re in a panic. And I like being able to walk them through the process and let them know we’re going to take care of it, because then they’re just relieved. It’s a burden off their shoulders. It’s nice to feel like you’re actually helping the community.

What do you do for fun outside of work?
I play golf and I love hiking. I go to Mt. Pisgah a lot, and one of my favorite places in Oregon is Silver Falls. I’m a sucker for waterfalls, so if a hike has one, I’m down. I love the sound of waterfalls. I also like hanging out with my son and daughter any chance I get. My daughter is a pediatric ICU nurse in Portland, so it’s a little tricky finding time with her. My son is here in Eugene. He’s a senior at U of O. We have a routine: every weekend we go out to eat somewhere together.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve encountered working at MWMC?
I got a call from a gal who wanted to potty train her cat, and she was asking if she could flush kitty litter down the drain. I was like, “Don’t do it!” She was trying to teach her cat to use the toilet. Even if it says, “flushable kitty litter”, it’s so hard on the wastewater system. 

You can learn more about what the entire MWMC team does on our website.
Pollution Solutions
Wipes clog pipes! That's why the state of Oregon passed a law requiring manufacturers to place "Do Not Flush" labeling on wipes sold in the state. Wipes may go down the toilet drain easily enough, but they don't dissolve in water the same way that toilet paper does, which creates problems for wastewater systems. They can collect fats and clog pipes, or get tangled in pumps and damage machinery. Even the wipes that have been marketed as "flushable" cause these problems, which is why we always recommend that you throw wipes away. There's no such thing as a flushable wipe!
Share with Others
Love receiving water news and tips for protecting the Willamette River each month? Forward this newsletter to a friend or colleague to share and encourage them to subscribe to our newsletter at this link. Thanks for partnering with us in our mission to protect the community's health and environment.