Flowering Shrubs Control Odor at Oregon City

An extensive tree-planting and landscaping project helps provide visual screening and odor control for a tertiary treatment plant.
Flowering Shrubs Control Odor at Oregon City
The plantings along the south side of the plant occupy the area in between the facility and a residential neighborhood.

Beautifying the Kellogg Creek Water Resource Recovery Facility is a community affair in the City of Milwaukie, a northwest Oregon city 11 miles south of Portland.

With an intergovernmental agreement and significant citizen input, more than 1,000 shrubs and 250 trees were planted near the activated sludge wastewater treatment plant that is across the street from downtown and next to a residential neighborhood.

“It was truly a cooperative effort of Clackamus County, the City of Milwaukie and the Kellogg Good Neighbor Committee,” says Doug Rumpel, operations supervisor of the 10 mgd design/8.02 average flow tertiary treatment facility owned by the county.

Diverse species

Hundreds of 2-foot-tall shrubs, such as Yankee point blue blossom, James Roof silk tassel bush, Pacific wax myrtle, cascara and Oregon grape, were planted during early 2015. Twelve species of trees including cedar, chestnut, American beech, Oregon ash, oak and dogwood were also strategically placed to shield the facility from view and help control odor. Most were at least 10 feet tall. A tall giant sequoia and 23 redwoods were included.

Trees were selected for their ability to screen views and direct airflow, and for their beauty. “We chose to install larger plants so that it wouldn’t take as long for them to grow in and screen the view,” says Gail Shaloum, county environmental policy specialist who served as project leader. Almost all the trees and shrubs are native to Oregon.

Many of the plants and trees were requested by the Kellogg Good Neighbor Committee, a 10-member volunteer citizen group organized in 2014 to make suggestions for mitigating the treatment plant’s impact on the environment.

Preparing the site

To make way for the plantings, many shrubs and nearly 60 trees that were in poor health had to be removed. Before that could begin, bird-watchers discovered an unusual visitor on the site — a black-and-white warbler off track from its usual migration route.

Tree removal was delayed to allow time for birders to view the warbler. Once begun, tree removal proceeded and was organized to give the bird a chance to move on. “It delayed our project for only about two weeks,” says Shaloum.

Workers took an innovative approach to the removal of weeds from a steep embankment near a city park between the plant and the Willamette River. They deployed a herd of 40 goats to clean up the area instead of using equipment and putting operators at risk.

Money for the landscape project came from a fund established through an agreement between the county and the city. The county contributed $1 million as seed money for the fund and provides $1 per month for each of the city’s 11,000 sewer connections to sustain the fund.

Shaloum says that until the new shrubs and trees have time to grow toward maturity, a fabric lining along the perimeter fence will help to screen views of the plant. The Trolley Trail, a heavily used 8-foot-wide paved path enjoyed by hikers and bikers, passes in front of the facility. A city park with picnic tables lies between the plant and the Willamette River.

Says Rumpel, “As good neighbors, we have worked to help camouflage the plant and are continuing to work on controlling odors.”


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