All in a day’s work: Silverton city employees rescue wildlife

September 2019 Posted in Community

Jesse Siewell cleaning the rescued fawn at Silverton Wastewater Treatment Plant. Courtesy Steve Starner

By Melissa Wagoner

An unexpected rescue took place on Aug. 15 at the Silverton Wastewater Treatment Plant. City employees, Jesse Siewell, Mike Downey and Steve Starner arrived at one of four bio-solids ponds to find a young fawn fighting for her life.

“It was definitely a double-take moment,” Water Quality Specialist Steve Starner remembered. “I think this fawn wanted a drink of water and got under the railing.”

It took the team nearly half an hour but eventually Siewell was able to rope the young deer and haul it to safety.

“It wasn’t the right kind of rope but it was all we had,” Starner said of the lengthy efforts. “It was really tired and covered in bio-solids so we hosed her off and carried her over to a grassy area and released her. We have deer around the ponds so the family was probably close by.”

In 19 years of working for the City of Silverton Starner said this is the first deer that has managed to fall in a pond, but not the first wildlife to be rescued.

“We’ve managed to get some ducklings out,” he smiled. “They’re usually in one of the clarifiers. We can usually put out a board on the edge of the tank and they’ll usually find their way out.”

After a rough month – an electrical failure in the newest lift station on James Street caused flooding in a nearby resident’s basement – Starner said the team needed a win.

“It was nice to have something good happen,” Starner said.

Therescue is not all the team has to celebrate. In 2018 the City of Silverton was named a Community Water Champion by WateReuse – a network of businesses and governments that use water recycling methods.

Because of that honor, Starner has been invited to attend this year’s annual WateReuse Symposium in San Diego on Sept. 6 to share information about the partnership between the City of Silverton and The Oregon Garden.

“The collaboration that it took to make it happen is very unique,” Starner said of the arrangement in which up to one million gallons of treated water is sent the Gardens’ wetlands each day.

“We have a permit from DEQ that allows us to distribute to Silver Creek but there are limits. So we created these wetlands and the water flows through and it is used for irrigation throughout the gardens,” Starner explained.

Whether it is rescuing wildlife, representing an internationally recognized water recycling program, or just maintaining the system of high quality drinking water for Silverton and its residents, Starner sees it all as just another day’s work for Silverton’s Water Quality team.

“I like cleaning the water,” he said, of his own joy in the job. “I like to see it come in used and go out clean.”

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