SEASIDE -?A new location for spreading biosolids from Seaside's wastewater treatment facility drew criticism from about a dozen nearby property owners at Monday's meeting of the Seaside City Council.
The Council gave them a forum, but took no action. "We're going to take a look and review it with these people," Mayor Don Larson said.
Biosolids disposal proved to be the only controversial topic on an agenda that also included the annual report on the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, choosing a bank to handle the city's financial accounts, and an update on how city staff handled the tsunami warning issued after the Feb. 27 earthquake in Chile.
David Crabtree, who owns a bamboo nursery on Lewis and Clark Road near Seaside, was one of several people who spoke out Monday against the city's plans to spread the biosolids - commonly known as sludge - on a farm adjacent to the Lewis and Clark River. Among his concerns was the odor of the sludge, which he feared might drive him out of business and possibly out of his home.
Others who spoke were organic farmers, concerned about the impact of the sludge on their crops, on the river, and especially on the wells that supply their drinking water.
"We're taking a look at it. We want to be good neighbors," Mayor Larson said. However, he said in 20 years of putting sludge on a site along U.S. Highway 101, he knows of only one complaint.
"Their concerns are that this is an area that traditionally floods and will cause issues with the river and their crops," City Manager Mark Winstanley said. But he pointed out that the biosolids, which have been thoroughly treated to remove bacteria and odor, are no more objectionable than the untreated waste produced by grazing dairy cattle and horses. However, he said he understands why the farmers are worried and city said staff will look for ways to mitigate their concerns.
The city leased the old Olson farm on Lewis and Clark Road as a replacement for property along U.S. Highway 101 that it leased from Russ Earl until Earl sold the property to the North Coast Land Conservancy. The city has a state Department of Environmental Quality permit to spread the sludge on the Olson farm, which is good only for the four months between June 15 and Oct 15, Winstanley said.
It's a 100-acre site, he said, and the city plans to use just 45 to 50 acres, and only "very particular" sites, in areas laid out by the DEQ. He said the city mapped the site, delineated the areas and met very stringent setback requirements.
Seaside owns its own 100-acre farm southeast of the city, which has been used for biosolids for 30 years. It's necessary to have several sites to rotate the fields and give the land a chance to rest, Winstanley explained.
In other business, Larson said a report on the Seaside Civic and Convention Center by General Manager Russ Vandenberg, showed use decreased by about 13 percent last year. Larson said the drop was not unexpected and was much less than other parts of the country, which saw drops of 25 percent or more. In general, Larson said, the Center is doing well. "We spent a lot of money to enhance it," he said. "We have a lot of new business and we're happy with it."
From five proposals submitted by local banks, Larson said the Council chose Wells Fargo to handle the city's banking activities, which formerly had been spread out among five banks. He said the council is very comfortable with the choice, which is based on less cost and a big advantage to the city.
The Council also heard an update on the way staff handled the tsunami alert last month. Larson said staff members swung into action immediately, reported to the police department, the Convention Center and the Visitors Bureau, e-mailed a press release to motels and warned people on the beach that there could be a small wave that afternoon.
"We wanted people to know we worked that issue all day," Winstanley said. "We started at 7 a.m. and we were evaluating until 5:30 p.m."
As it turned out, the earthquake in Chile had a very small effect on the Oregon coast, but Seaside officials wanted the public to know they were prepared.