1,290,750 Pounds of Toxic Chemicals Dumped into Oregon’s Waterways

Industrial facilities dumped 1,290,750 pounds of toxic chemicals into Oregon’s waterways in 2012 making Oregon’s waterways 33rd worst in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center.

The Wasting Our Waterways report comes as the Environmental Protection Agency considers a new rule to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Oregon and across the nation.

“Oregon’s waterways should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Rikki Seguin, Conservation Advocate with Environment Oregon. “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters. The first step to curb this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”

The Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center report on toxic pollutants discharged to America’s waters is based on data reported by polluting facilities to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012, the most recent data available.

The Toxics Release Inventory is one of the most potent tools that people can use to know about the toxic chemicals that they are regularly exposed to. The Clean Water Act, written in 1972 and amended in 1977, called for the elimination of the discharge of pollutants into our nation’s waterways by 1983.  It is more than 30 years later and our waterways are still being assaulted by pollution that should have been stopped decades ago,” stated Charlie Tebbutt, long-time clean water advocate and enforcer of our pollution laws.

Major findings of the report include that the Siltronic Corporation in Portland operating along the Lower Willamette River produced semiconductor and related devices and also released 350,562 pounds of toxic chemicals in 2012, ultimately ranking it the top discharging facility in the state.

The report also found that the Lower Columbia-Clatskanie Rivers rank 7th in the nation for releases of developmental toxins with 9,377 pounds of toxics released in 2012.

Oregon ranks 17th in the nation for release of cancer causing chemicals with 22,630 pounds of carcinogenic toxics released into Oregon’s waterways in 2012.

Environment Oregon Research and Policy Center’s report summarizes discharges of cancer-causing chemicals, chemicals that persist in the environment, and chemicals with the potential to cause reproductive problems ranging from birth defects to infertility. The toxic chemicals dumped in Oregon include formaldehyde, which causes cancer, and developmental toxins, such as lead and lead compounds, which can affect the way children grow, learn, and behave.

The report recommends several steps to curb this tide of toxic pollution – including requiring industry to switch from toxic chemicals to safer alternatives. But Environment Oregon Research and Policy is highlighting one part of the solution that could actually become law this year: Restoring the Clean Water Act protections to all Oregon’s waters.

As a result of court cases brought by polluters, 61,000 miles of streams in Oregon and 1.8 million Oregonian’s drinking water are under-protected under federal Clean Water Act. Following years of advocacy by Environment Oregon and its allies, this spring, the EPA finally proposed a rule to close the loopholes that have left Oregon’s waterways at risk and restore Clean Water Act protections.

But a wide range of polluting industries, including paper mills in Oregon, is vigorously opposing the clean water rule.

“Looking at the data from our report today, you can see why polluters might oppose it,” said Rikki Seguin. “That’s why we are working with farmers, small businesses, and thousands of ordinary Oregonians to make sure our voices for clean water are heard in Washington D.C. The future of the Oregon’s rivers hangs in the balance.”

Scott White, owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Bend joined the call to action, adding, “Clean water is important to my local business, as my friends and customers are active outdoors people.”

“Oregon’s waterways shouldn’t be a polluter’s dumping ground,” said Rikki Seguin, “If we want our rivers to be clean for future generations of Oregonians, we must restore Clean Water Act protections to all of our waterways, and we must do it now.”

Read the full report here.