Lawsuit: EPA failed to produce Oregon water pollution clean-up plans

Lawsuit: EPA failed to produce Oregon water pollution clean-up plans

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland-based non-profit environmental organization is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for its failure to step in after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality allegedly did not provide water pollution clean-up plans for the last decade. 

Northwest Environmental Advocates says 3,741 bodies of water in Oregon are overly polluted. 

“They could be small creeks, they could be large rivers, there are lakes, there are waters where the rivers enter the ocean and the problems are all over the map,” said Nina Bell, executive director of NWEA. 

The group says the last time the state produced any new water pollution clean-up plans, called Total Maximum Daily Loads or TMDLs, was over a decade ago. 

The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to develop clean-up plans for polluted waters if the state fails to do so. 

NWEA is suing the agency for violating the act. 

“If we don’t do all the steps that the Clean Water Act lays out that need to be done, our waters are simply going to get more and more polluted and less and less safe for people and for fish,” Bell said. 

The Oregon DEQ issued a statement in response to the lawsuit saying, “Contrary to what the NWEA is saying, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued four significant TMDLs in the last two years: two in the Klamath Basin for temperature and nutrients; one for the entire Willamette River basin, for mercury; and one for the Columbia River, for temperature.” 

The Oregon DEQ said these anti-pollution measures cover thousands of segments of rivers and represent the department’s commitment to protecting public health and the environment. 

The EPA said it does not comment on pending litigation. 

The Oregon DEQ’s full statement is below: 

Contrary to what the NWEA is saying, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have issued four significant TMDLs in the last two years: two in the Klamath Basin for temperature and nutrients; one for the entire Willamette River basin, for mercury; and one for the Columbia River, for temperature. Collectively, these anti-pollution measures cover thousands of segments of rivers and represent major commitments to protecting public health and Oregon’s environment. Further, DEQ is working on TMDLs for two coastal rivers and is in the early stages of work on 14 temperature TMDLs across much of the state. DEQ also is working to issue a permit for the City of Medford’s wastewater permit that will add more protections for the Rogue River.

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