Airport fined by DEQ

The Newport Municipal Airport was fined by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for multiple violations of requirements that airport officials said they were never notified about — until a $34,000 fine was levied last month. The city will appeal the decision with the DEQ. (News-Times file photo)

DEQ failed to notify airport officials of new requirements

NEWPORT — Despite complying with regulations under the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Newport Municipal Airport was fined $13,480 for failing to monitor for statewide benchmark pollutants regulated by the DEQ, according DEQ documents dated June 3. 

While the fine is levied for not monitoring certain pollutants, airport officials said they did adhere to DEQ regulations before those regulations were changed — without notice. 

“DEQ switched their permitting requirements, and we were operating under the old permits requirements,” said Lance Vanderbeck, the Newport Municipal Airport director. “We were doing what the old consulting group told us to do — how to do water samples, who to send them in to. DEQ didn’t like that setup.”

With the help of a new firm acting as a consultant on stormwater permitting issues and pollution monitoring, airport officials are now taking samples from new sampling points on airport property agreed upon between the DEQ and the city. 

One of the requirements, Vanderbeck said, mandated the airport sample from stormwater runoff during certain times of the year. However, in drought-prone conditions during the warm summer months, getting the kinds of samples required under DEQ regulations isn’t always possible.

“If you don't get four samples a year within their quarterly requirements, then you have to write a report basically explaining why you weren’t able to get the other two samples,” Vanderbeck said. “We’ve been going through droughts, so getting the samples with only two people and trying to get the stormwater system to have discharge of any sorts was kind of limited.”

When the airport got notice of the violations and the fine, Vanderbeck said airport officials sent in letters asking for an appeal, since no one at the airport knew about the new regulations. The DEQ never responded to those letters, Vanderbeck said.

“They were saying you didn't get your four samplings, but they never brought up the fact that we sent letters explaining why we didn't get four samplings,” Vanderbeck said. “So that’s one point were going to bring up with the DEQ.”

The DEQ listed numerous other violations in the agency’s assessment. Not properly training airport employees on how to carry out duties related to pollution monitoring, not conducting adequate monthly inspections of airport drainage and conveyance systems and not tracking locations on airport property where monitoring was needed are all violations stated in the DEQ’s assessment. 

However, the longtime airport director said there are only two employees of the Newport Municipal Airport who perform monitoring duties on airport property. A regulation stipulated airport employees have to be trained how to monitor sample sites on the property within 30 days of their start date, which the airport adhered to. However, annual re-training requirements that airport officials here didn’t know about weren’t met. 

It seems part of the most serious violation is based on spills from a pump in three of the last five years.

“DEQ is basing part of their fine to the airport for two spills that happened at Schooner Creek pump station from 2014, 2017 and 2018,” said Lance Vanderbeck, in a Newport Municipal Airport operations report dated June 30. “The city has made the determination to appeal the findings. A hearing will be scheduled by the DEQ."

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