DEQ hearing looks at fruit packing waste

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

June 10, 2006

Months of work between the state Department of Environmental Quality and Hood River Valley fruit packers reaches the point of public comment Thursday in Pine Grove.

Those involved have been working out the details to renew permits for each of the plants to continue discharging wastewater into area creeks.

“We have about five years to figure out what to do; we have to do some research on that,” said Jean Godfrey, executive director of the Hood River Grower-Shipper Association.

She referred to possible upgrades packers might need to do to meet final DEQ requirements. The agency has proposed renewing all of the permits until 2011 under certain conditions.

The hearing Thursday starts at 4:30 p.m. at the group’s business office, 2835 Van Horn Drive. The permit renewals affect only a few of the association’s 370 members. They include Diamond Fruit Growers, which has three plants: Stadelman Fruit, Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Company, and Lage Orchards.

While Terminal Ice and Cold Storage is also part of the hearing, the firm does not currently pack fruit at its location but wants to retain the right to do so.

The process began when the DEQ tested waterways in 2004, finding that “the fruit process wastewater could contain toxics that could affect fish” according to the hearing announcement.

DEQ analyzed discharges from the plants into Lenz Creek, Wishart Creek, that joins with the East Fork of the Hood River; the Van Horn tributary of Neal Creek, and Neal Creek. That research measured water temperatures to determine if the plants complied with cold water protection standards for streams that have salmon, steelhead or bull trout. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the steelhead in the Hood River drainage system is a listed species.

The DEQ will require each of the plants to have a contingency plan for spills, a designated supervisor contact, and no increases in thermal load without prior written approval; proper use of lime, and guidelines for testing effluent toxics. In addition, the agency required that Stadelman Fruit submit any plans to the DEQ before any construction activity.

DEQ has set a timeline for each of the plants to submit conceptual plans within two years after the permit has been issued.

The agency will accept written comments on the plans until June 20. Plans are available for review at the Bend DEQ office.

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