Clean Water News & Stories

Fire in the Belly: Water Treatment Powered by Digestion 

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 facilitiesRock 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. 

Clean Water Services Water Resource Recovery Facility in Rock Creek, Oregon. Shown at dusk with bright lights illuminating a large clarifier on site.

Did You Know?

We refer to the places your wastewater goes to as “resource recovery facilities,” and we don’t particularly like to use the word “wastewater” all that often. That’s because we don’t only make sure the water that leaves your home is ultimately clean enough to return to the Tualatin River or be reused for irrigation we recover valuable nutrients and energy from it to benefit the environment and save ratepayers money. Explore our Virtual Treatment Process. 

A flame burns excess methane out of a digester, against a night sky.