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Septic hauler's actions cause big stink.

Byline: SHERRI BURI McDONALD The Register-Guard

A rural Eugene septic hauler's attempt to save $90 in August 2001 by clandestinely draining his truck's contents into a city sewer pipe, instead of dumping it at the regional wastewater treatment plant, has turned out to be a very expensive proposition.

The hauler, Gayne Holte, former owner of Drain Free Septic Tank Cleaners, 85000 Lorane Highway, said he thought he was dumping the load into a sanitary sewer, but it actually went into a storm sewer and into the Willamette River, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality officials.

Holte has already paid a $1,000 fine to the city wastewater division. Now he is appealing a $13,200 penalty levied by DEQ for dumping about 1,000 gallons of sewage into the storm sewer and later failing to provide records the DEQ wanted to review.

The penalty was the second-largest the DEQ assessed statewide in December.

Most of the penalty ($10,000) was for the unauthorized dumping; the rest was for not providing follow-up paperwork, said Randy Trox, a DEQ natural resource specialist.

Compared with other local wastewater violations, "this is pretty bad," said Cary Kerst, a supervisor in the city's wastewater division. "A large volume of sewage with a high bacterial count is not something we want directly in the river."

Holte did not return phone calls from The Register-Guard seeking comment.

In a Jan. 1 letter to the DEQ, Holte sought to appeal the fine to higher-level DEQ officials. He said he thought the pipe where he dumped the sewage was connected to the sanitary sewer and that he didn't know he needed to keep records tracking the loads he had dumped for three years.

Holte dumped the sewage on Aug. 6, 2001, into what's called a "clean-out" pipe near Holte Manufacturing Co. at 181 Polk St. Holte Manufacturing is a separate company from Drain Free, owned by Gayne Holte's uncle, Art Holte.

A city public work maintenance worker noticed a "filthy, foul-smelling substance" draining from a large outfall pipe into the south side of the river near the bicycle bridge leading to Valley River Center. That prompted an investigation, and city workers said Gayne Holte admitted that he had dumped a load into the clean-out pipe to avoid paying the 9 cents-a-gallon fee at the treatment plant.

The "clean-out" pipe should have been connected to the sanitary sewer, but apparently was overlooked in the 1960s when old sewer connections to the stormwater system were supposed to be switched to the sanitary sewer, officials said.

The property owners have since corrected the problem, Kerst said, adding that city workers did not discover any other pipes that were improperly connected.

Drain Free Septic Tank Cleaners is under new ownership. The new owner is Jeffrey Bowers, who also owns Royal Flush Septic Service.
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Title Annotation:Expensive shortcut: State levies large fine after 1,000 gallons of sewage ends up in Willamette River.; Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 25, 2003
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