The Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (MWMC) is a partnership between the City of Eugene, City of Springfield, and Lane County. The MWMC is responsible for regional wastewater treatment in the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area and is committed to a cooperative partnership with the community, sustainable solutions, and above all, keeping our water clean!

In order to successfully protect the health of our community and our environment, our Commission sets our strategies based on five Key Outcomes.

1. High Environmental Standards

2. Effective & Efficient Fiscal Management

3. Successful Intergovernmental Partnership

4. Maximum Reliability of Assets & Infrastructure

5. Public Awareness and Understanding of the MWMC

The Commission

The Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission is composed of seven commissioners, including an elected representative from each governing body and four citizen representatives. There are three representatives from Eugene, two from Springfield, and two from Lane County, proportionate to population served in each area. Each year, the Commission elects a President and Vice President to oversee and run their meetings.

New Eugene Commissioner: Chris Hazen

With the retirement of longtime Commissioner Walt Meyer in 2022, Eugene appointed a new citizen representative to the MWMC in 2023. Christopher Hazen is the newest member of the Commission and has more than 20 years of experience in environmental engineering and resource management. He has previously served on the Lane County Transport and Budget Advisory Committees. Commissioner Hazen was appointed January 2023.

Treatment Plant Operations

Cleaning Water, Every Day

The Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant cleans water 24/7/365. Our operators work around the clock to make sure every drop of water is clean and safe to release to the Willamette River. In 2023, we cleaned 11 billion gallons of water, which is an average of 30.1 million gallons a day!

Maintaining Our Standards

In order to make sure our water is clean, and our treatment processes are working, our on-site laboratory staff and operators run dozens of tests every single day. This year, we conducted 29,130 tests to ensure compliance with all of our regulatory requirements.

Award-Winning Team

For the 16th year in a row, the MWMC won the Platinum Peak Performance Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. This award recognizes 100% compliance with all standards in our discharge permit over a five-year period. Our plant also received the Treatment Plant of the Year award for the West Central Oregon Section from the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association!

Capturing Renewable Resources

The Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) facility captures biogas from byproducts of the wastewater treatment process, cleans impurities out of it until it is commercial-grade natural gas, and injects it into NW Natural’s pipeline. This year, our facility produced 45.6 million cubic feet of RNG – enough to provide a one-year supply of natural gas to 4,253 homes, or supply 797 cars with fuel for an entire year. Our operators and engineers also identified improvements and facility upgrades the MWMC can make to increase our RNG output in the future.

Capital Improvements

Designing to Meet Our Community's Future Needs

2023 was a year of continued planning and careful evaluation of the MWMC’s facilities. The engineering and project management team have reached several milestones in the design phase of MWMC projects.

  • 90% design development of the Administration Building Improvements
  • 60% design development of Aeration System Upgrades
  • 30% design development of Electrical Switchgear & Transformer Replacement
  • Continued progress of Class A Recycled Water development
  • Continued work on Glenwood Pump Station upgrades
  • Started planning phase to upgrade the RNG Facility with a dedicated waste gas burner system

Inspecting Our Infrastructure

As part of our continuous evaluation of our critical infrastructure, the MWMC worked with an engineering firm to perform a thorough inspection of our plant, including our headworks, primary treatment facilities, aeration basins, final treatment process, and the outfall structure. This inspection included difficult-to-access channels and areas that have had wastewater flowing through them continuously for almost 40 years. In order to perform the inspections, treatment plant and pump station staff came in at 2 a.m. to shut off all flow coming into the plant, allowing us to empty the channels and give a dive team access to inspect them. Staff monitored the pump stations to make sure there were no overflows, and the inspection team was able to safely complete their job.

The inspection results were positive, although a few areas of wear-and-tear and corrosion were identified that were within what would be expected for a facility that handles billions of gallons of wastewater each year. Our engineers are following up to develop strategies to repair any worn-down areas and safely maximize the life of our infrastructure.

Biosolids Management

Producing Sustainable Fertilizer

Our Biosolids Management Facility processes the solid organic waste that is removed from wastewater during the cleaning process. The solids are pumped more than five miles to our lagoons, where they will continue to break down until they are ready to be processed. Our staff put the biosolids through a dewatering process and dry them out during the summer. Once they are dry enough to be applied, we distribute our Class B Biosolids to local grass seed farmers to be used as a soil amendment. We also apply our biosolids to our poplar tree farm, where the nutrients are rapidly absorbed and sequestered by our fast-growing trees.

Maximizing Our Resources

In 2023, we produced 2,837 dry tons of Class B Biosolids that were applied to 432 acres of local farmland and 66 acres of our own poplar farm. We also used more the 46 million gallons of recycled water to irrigate the poplar trees. The trees are grown for up to 12 years, and the harvested wood is used and sold for a variety of applications. In 2023, some of the poplar wood from the 2021 harvest was professionally milled and installed as wall paneling in the City of Springfield’s renovated city council chambers project to showcase the use of our sustainable poplar farm as a local building material.

Planning for the Future

Planting New Poplar Trees

The 2023 planting was a milestone for closing out 10 years of testing to determine the practices for long-term Biocycle Farm management. After harvesting 116 acres of mature poplar trees on our Biocycle Farm in 2021, it was time to replant the field in 2023. Our environmental planning team took a new approach to replanting and stump management, testing our capability to grow and harvest our own whips (sapling-like growths that resprout from stumps, which can be planted as new trees), rather than purchasing whips from a commercial nursery. We hoped that by directly harvesting and planting one-year-old whips, we could avoid the additional time and expense of packing and storing cut whips.

After growing out the stumps in 2022, we again hired the Northwest Youth Corps to collect whips and plant the field through a tough winter season. Particularly cold temperatures meant that the ground was frozen in the early morning, making it difficult to work the soil and get the whips planted at an adequate depth. We found that some of the whips were not as suitable for planting as hoped, and additional nursery stock was needed. To complete the job, half of the 116-acre unit was replanted with contract crews and nursery-sourced whips. This gave us the ability to directly compare performance of two different planting crews and different poplar stock. Planting was completed in spring 2023.

After the planting was completed, our environmental planning team checked the new saplings to see if they were healthy. We discovered that many of the whips had not grown adequately due to water competition with weeds, coupled with unusually short spring rains and a delay in starting irrigation due to the installation of new computer control systems at the Biosolids Management Facility. We will do another round of planting for any trees that haven’t survived the winter. Despite this year’s difficulties, we did learn some valuable lessons for our long-term management practices in the future.

Testing Biochar Capabilities

As we continue to explore innovative, beneficial uses for our sustainably grown poplar trees, we continued experimentation in 2023 with creating and using poplar biochar. Biochar is a substance similar to charcoal that is created through a carefully controlled burning process. Biochar has microscopic structures that help to retain nutrients for plants, making it an excellent product to enhance soil and sequester carbon. During the 2021 poplar harvest, we ran a small demonstration of biochar production, resulting in a small batch of biochar.

Wastewater staff tour stormwater facilities at Willamette Christian Center during construction.

Through the Urban Waters & Wildlife Partnership, in 2023 we coordinated with the Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC)to help with an urban rain garden project at the Willamette Christian Center in Eugene. LTWC built four identical bioswales (plant beds that help filter pollutants out of stormwater runoff) in the parking lot, each one using a different type of soil mix. They will be tested over the next several years to see how well each planting bed mix reduces pollutants. The MWMC donated our poplar biochar for use in one of the bioswales, ultimately turning one wastewater treatment tool (poplar trees) into a stormwater treatment tool (biochar). Through this partnership, we will get a direct comparison of the pollutant reduction effects of our poplar biochar from field production against commercially produced and processed biochar products.

Stormwater swale during construction.

To scale up production and hopefully make use of more wood waste from harvesting, in 2023 we contracted a portable air curtain incinerator (ACI) unit for one week in July. During that week, we hosted a biochar production demonstration at the Biocycle Farm for several of our community partners. Our previous harvest yielded large piles of harvest grindings known as hog fuel – chipped wood, bark, and leaves. We also had a small amount of unchipped branches onsite. We learned that the slash produced quality biochar, but the hog fuel was too dense to make biochar. Future harvests may be able to send logging slash directly to biochar production and avoid the cost and handling of grinding hog fuel.

1 Year - 100% Compliance Under New Permit

2023 marked the first full year for the MWMC under our new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Because of successful planning efforts and constant improvement to our processes in previous years, we were well prepared to address the new standards in the updated permit. We reached a full year of 100% compliance in November 2023 and remained in compliance with all limits, monitoring, and reporting requirements throughout 2023. Other permit milestones included implementation of new local limits for our industrial pretreatment program and breaking ground on several new project sites to restore riverbank shade trees for temperature reduction benefits.

Restoring the Watersheds

A new element of the MWMC’s 2022 NPDES permit renewal is a new set of temperature requirements designed to protect salmon habitat. As a part of lowering river temperatures under our new permit, the MWMC has contracted with The Freshwater Trust to restore approximately 40 acres of riverside trees and vegetation along the Willamette River and its tributaries. These restoration sites help keep the river cool by providing natural shade to reduce sunlight entering the river. They provide multiple additional benefits, including filtering pollutants, providing native habitat and food sources, and slowing flood waters. Restored sites are also more resilient to drought, wildfire, and floods.

Over the course of 2023, The Freshwater Trust worked to begin contracting with riverside landowners and started planting at some of their sites. Two of the MWMC sponsored restoration sites are particularly exciting for their community benefits: the Row River Nature Park outside of Cottage Grove and the Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah site outside of Eugene/Springfield. While these sites were started in 2023, work will continue to fully establish the trees and monitor their effectiveness over the next 20 years.

Public Education & Outreach

Clean Water University's Largest Year Yet

The 2023 Clean Water University event was met with more interest than ever before, with 14 schools applying to participate. This educational program helps teach 5th grade students about wastewater, drinking water, and stormwater systems and the importance of clean water. The MWMC holds this field trip event in October at the regional wastewater treatment plant, where students can receive a tour and do educational activities to learn from local experts. This year, we were assisted by volunteers from City of Springfield Development & Public Works Department, City of Eugene Public Works Department including the Parks & Open Space Division, Rainbow Water District, and the Springfield Utility Board.

The program has become so successful that we received the Watermark Award from the Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association in September. The award recognizes excellence in public education, and we are proud of the work we’ve done to reach young people and help them begin learning about water sciences.

Communications Supervisor Loralyn Spiro accepts the Watermark Award for Clean Water University.

Meet Wally the Waterdrop

The MWMC gained a mascot in 2023! Meet Wally, a waterdrop from the Willamette River who goes on adventures around Eugene and Springfield learning about wildlife, habitats, and anything related to water. Wally saw strong engagement on social media in 2023, and the communications team plans to expand his presence in 2024 as a part of the MWMC’s brand.

Speaking of social media, the MWMC’s social media continued to grow throughout 2023 gaining new followers and increased engagement. Our Facebook page reached 1,232 followers, our Instagram grew to 904 followers, and X (formerly Twitter) held steady at 215 followers.

Industrial Pretreatment

Cities Adopt New Local Ordinances and Limits

The MWMC cleans all wastewater that comes into our regional treatment plant, so it’s important to ensure that we don’t receive any chemicals or pollutants that would disrupt our processes . That’s why we have industrial pretreatment programs in the cities of Eugene and Springfield. Our industrial pretreatment teams work with major industries that discharge large amounts of wastewater to ensure that they can control the substances in their water.

The MWMC’s new permit required Eugene and Springfield to adopt new standards for their industrial pretreatment programs. In 2023, both cities went through a public notice and adoption process of new local ordinances that will aid in protecting our regional wastewater system. Those ordinances are anticipated to receive approval from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality prior to implementation in 2024.

The regional pretreatment programs were also required to perform a technical evaluation of their current local limits on pollutants in our incoming wastewater and update these local limits if necessary. The updated local limits will address the specific needs of our regional wastewater treatment plant, its sludge, and its receiving waters. That way, the treatment plant will be able to continue cleaning everyone’s wastewater to an even higher standard.

Testing and Inspections

In order to ensure that incoming wastewater meets the standards our treatment plant needs, pretreatment staff perform tests and inspections of commercial sites throughout the year. In 2023, the City of Eugene conducted 29 inspections and 197 sampling events, and the City of Springfield performed 35 inspections and 219 sampling events. The groups also continued their work of maintaining wastewater permits for major industries with high volumes of wastewater discharge.

Financial Management

Responsible Fiscal Stewardship

The MWMC is funded by customers from Eugene, Springfield, and Lane County. We bill through the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) and the Springfield Utility Board (SUB). On your utility bill, you’ll see regional and local wastewater lines. The regional portion of your bill goes to the MWMC, and the local component goes to either the City of Eugene or the City of Springfield.

The 2023-2024 budget included a modest increase to customer rates of 4.5%, which equates to about $1.30 on average. The increase was primarily due to inflation and will allow the MWMC to keep up with rising costs. Our Commission also seeks alternate revenue streams to offset costs to ratepayers, including income from our Renewable Natural Gas production and sales of poplar lumber products. Every year, the Commission also reviews the MWMC’s Key Performance Indicators and strives to set a balanced budget with healthy resources for the future.