Have you ever noticed a flame in the distance near Rood Bridge Park or Cook Park? Our friends at the local fire departments sometimes get concerned calls about those flames, but they are there for a very good reason and are part of normal operations.
At our two largest water resource recovery facilities — Rock Creek in Hillsboro and Durham in Tigard — we separate solids from the water that leaves homes and businesses and break them down in large digesters.
Digesters work a lot like a human stomach. Microorganisms decompose organic matter, creating methane in the process. We use most of that renewable biogas to produce energy for heating and powering the treatment facilities. We then burn off any excess methane in digester flares to keep this powerful greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.
So, the next time you see one of the flames, don’t be alarmed — just think about all those bacteria getting gassy while happily dining on what you flush. Or don’t, if that’s too gross. But definitely don’t call 911.