Wastewater treatment problem at Rogue Ales

Rogue Ales is grappling with the City of Newport over how to handle the large amount of solid waste produced by the brewery. The company pays fines to the city every month as a result of the volume of solid waste the brewery sends to the wastewater treatment plant. (Photo by Madeline Shannon)

NEWPORT — Wastewater discharges at Rogue Ales’ brewery in Newport is causing problems for the Newport Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to city officials, with the primary issue consisting of the large amount of solid waste the city gets from Rogue. 

“Rogue is a large generator of those solids that we have to treat at the plant,” said City Manager Spencer Nebel on Monday. “Typically, breweries will have a pre-treatment process to reduce those, and that’s what we’ve been working with Rogue on.”

The problem, according to Newport Public Works Director Tim Gross, was caused in part by the brewery outgrowing the city’s ability to process the brewery’s solid waste. He said with no pre-treatment process at the brewery to partially treat Rogue Ales’ solid waste before it gets to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, the city spends “above and beyond” the normal amount of money to treat and process Rogue’s solid waste. 

“But they’re sort of backed into a corner in being able to operate a brewery that doesn’t actually have the ability to meet the wastewater discharge,” Gross said. “Rogue Brewery has made a good faith effort to try to revise a facility that is not designed to meet the waste loading of the city. It’s unfortunate the code hasn’t changed; it’s just they outgrew our ability to take their waste.”

A permit granted to the brewery from the city, Gross added, is based on measurable quantities the city’s plant can support from the brewery, and until a couple of years ago, city staff didn’t know what the strength of the waste was from Rogue Brewery. A monitoring station, installed during the brewery’s last expansion in 2017, was turned over to the city so Gross and other city staff could monitor the daily waste Rogue is churning out. 

“As a result of that monitoring process, we sent correspondence to Rogue telling them and giving them time frames they could come into compliance with existing city code, otherwise we’ll start levying fines,” Gross said. “When those dates came and went, we sent them additional information to come into compliance, and we started fining them.”

Rogue Ales has been fined monthly for failing to comply with city code for the last two years, by city officials’ estimates. According to the longtime public works director, Rogue Ales hired employees to develop a wastewater monitoring system, and Gross considers the company to be working with the city in good faith. 

“This is not something you can do overnight,” Gross added. “In the meantime, they continue to operate. I’m confident at some point in time they’re going to come into compliance with [their] permit, and we have some guarantees to make sure they’re doing that.”

While Rogue Ales employees make an effort to reduce the amount of solid waste sent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, those efforts only happen from time to time, Gross said. 

Jim Kline, who retired from Rogue Ales in 2018 but occasionally consults for the company, told the council on Monday that employees at Rogue are working to get back in compliance with Newport city code. The longtime Rogue employee also said he didn’t know when the company would be able to comply with the city’s wastewater treatment regulations, but Gross estimated it could be a matter of months. 

Other recent issues Rogue Ales faces, like the backlash over the company’s failure to get a short-term rental license for the Rogue “Bed ‘n’ Beer” vacation rental property owned by the company, are also ongoing issues Rogue officials are still grappling to fix. 

“We’re working through the resolutions now,” Kline said. “We plan on getting it resolved as quickly as possible.”


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