PORTLAND, Ore. -- The City of Portland says it caught the port-a-potty company Honey Bucket dumping more than just human waste into the city's sewer system and nearly causing a sewage overflow.
The story was exposed in this week's Street Roots, a weekly published paper focused on homelessness and poverty.
For nine days last April the city's sewage Rivergate pump station in North Portland came dangerously close to overflowing not only onto the streets, but into the Smith and Bybee Wildlife Area right next to it.
It was all because the pumps got jammed with material other than sewage.
City workers pulled out items like tape from construction sites, bandanas, ear plugs, even syringes.
"It was kind of a mystery," said Dan Parnell, Bureau of Environmental Services industrial permitting manager.
Parnell said the day the backups started also happened to be the day Honey Bucket, just up the street, started emptying the contents of its port-a-potties into the sewage system.
The company had gotten a permit to do that the week prior.
"We had inspectors out there making sure all of the systems were in place to prevent this material from getting into the system," said Parnell.
But when the city went back to Honey Bucket to investigate, it discovered a hole had been cut into a screen that filters larger debris out of the discharge.
"They had cut about a two inch by two and half foot hole into that screen," Parnell said.
The city fined Honey Bucket $90,000.
In documents obtained by KGW, the company admits to cutting the hole in the screen but says it was to allow larger feces to pass through.
Honey Bucket claims it sorted out all other materials and believes the problems were the result of homeless in the area dumping garbage directly into the sewer.
Denise Rice, event manager at the Honey Bucket facility, told us the issue is getting resolved.
"Personally, I can tell you when we get any information from anybody, we comply to those standards," Rice said.
Honey Bucket is now appealing that $90,000 fine.