Monsanto Settlement to Fund Water Cleanup

By Associated Press, Wire Service Content

BY JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Major California cities say they’ll use their share of a $650 million settlement to clean up the now-banned chemical PCB from bays, lakes and other waterways polluted for decades.

The giant chemical company Monsanto announced a tentative agreement Wednesday with government entities that had filed suit since 2015 over waterways and estuaries they say were polluted.

PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids from the 1930s until 1977, two years before the United States banned them. Monsanto was their manufacturer.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

The tentative pact was announced along with a pledge from Monsanto that it would also pay up to $10.9 billion to settle litigation involving its weedkiller Roundup, which has triggered thousands of lawsuits over claims it causes cancer.

“Monsanto has profited handsomely for decades and will finally be held responsible for the damage it knowingly caused by manufacturing a product that put the public’s health at risk,” said Mara Elliott, city attorney for San Diego, one of the municipalities that sued over PCB pollution.

The settlement hinges on approval by U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin. After that it will be determined how the money will be divided.

“The class is structured in a way that those who are facing the most significant problems get the most money by a longshot,” said attorney Scott Summy, whose firm, Baron & Budd, represented the government entities. “We think that will go a long way in helping protect the viability of many American waterways.”

Long Beach Deputy City Attorney Dawn McIntosh said her municipality is looking into using its share to fund stormwater-control projects it has had on hold for some time, as well as helping pay for ongoing monitoring projects.

“There’s a lot of things that can be done to further those causes,” she said. “The city will figure out what makes sense when we actually get the money.”

Other government entities positioned to benefit from the settlement are the Washington cities of Spokane and Tacoma, the city of Portland, Oregon, the Port of Portland, the California cities of Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Chula Vista, as well as Los Angeles and Baltimore counties, and the city of Baltimore.

Summy said the settlement is believed to be the first reached between the manufacturer of a chemical and government entities that had waterways polluted when it drained into their lakes, bays, estuaries and other waterways in storm runoff.

“This settlement is a groundbreaking effort to protect and restore the city’s water resources,” said Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin. He added it will provide his city and others “with funds for monitoring, mitigation and remediation efforts to manage PCBs in stormwater, stormwater systems, sediments and water bodies.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Federal court battle could change fluoridation of water for millions

A federal court trial underway in San Francisco could spell the beginning of the end of water fluoridation in America, potentially affecting drinking water for hundreds of millions of people across the U.S.

Although fluoride can occur naturally in water, many water utilities add the chemical with the goal of improving dental health. But an alliance of groups led by Food & Water Watch, a government accountability nonprofit, have sued the Environmental Protection Agency to force it to limit or ban adding fluoride altogether. They contend that the chemical presents an “unreasonable risk’’ of causing neurological damage, especially to young children and babies in the womb.

In opening statements today, plaintiffs lawyer Michael Connett said it ”will be undisputed in this case that babies who are bottle-fed with fluoridated water receive the highest doses of fluoride of any age group.” At the time of “their greatest vulnerability, we are exposing infants, often from the poorest, most disadvantage communities, to a very high burden of fluoride,” Connett said.

But James Do, a Justice Department lawyer representing the EPA, said there are too many ”uncertainties and inconsistencies” in the evidence. “Let’s be one hundred percent clear here,” Do said. ”If EPA could conclude that there was an unreasonable risk from water fluoridation, EPA would regulate.”

As reported by FairWarning, water agencies first began adding fluoride in the 1940s, and today nearly 75 percent of Americans on public water systems are served fluoridated water. Fluoridation has been a lightning rod for crackpot conspiracy theories, including that it is part of a government plot to achieve mind control. Despite the outlandish nature of these fever dreams, fluoride is far from a benign chemical, health experts say.

As things stands, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set an advisory limit of 0.7 parts of fluoride per million parts of water as the optimum level to help prevent tooth decay while avoiding other problems associated with excessive fluoride exposure. These include dental fluorosis—which can lead to severe staining of the teeth, enamel erosion and pitting—and at much higher exposure levels skeletal fluorosis, a disease associated with joint pain, fractures and the bone disorder osteosclerosis.

But the EPA, which regulates drinking water quality, has not acted to limit the amount of fluoride that can be added. It requires that when fluoride concentrations exceed 2 parts per million parts that customers be alerted, and sets a maximum level of 4 ppm—an allowance for water systems with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride.

According to the CDC, of approximately 275 million Americans on public water systems, more than 200 million are served water with fluoride added. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, found that about 30 million people receive tap water with fluoride levels higher than the CDC recommendation.

Medical and dental authorities say that a small dose of the chemical is beneficial for dental health. The CDC claims that fluoridation reduces cavities by about 25% in children and adults. Still, a growing body of evidence suggests that Americans are routinely exposed to more fluoride than is good for them.

Experts point out that people already receive a daily dose of fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash, and in many bottled drinks and processed foods. A key focus of the federal trial is a growing stack of scientific literature showing potential neurological harm from even low levels of fluoride.

In 2016, a 13-year study conducted in Mexico found that higher prenatal exposures to fluoride were associated with lower intelligence test scores for children later on. Between 2018 and 2019, several studies from Canada found similar effects, including that more fluoride in the urine of expectant mothers corresponded with an IQ loss in male children, and that youths from areas with fluoridated water had a higher prevalence of ADHD.

The EPA has asserted that there isn’t enough evidence showing neurological damage from low levels of fluoride, and that the benefits of fluoridation outweigh the risks.

The case before U.S. District Judge Edward Chen began its slow road to trial in 2016, when the plaintiffs petitioned the EPA to begin the process of banning fluoridation. A court subsequently denied the EPA’s motion to dismiss the petition, setting the stage for the legal showdown. In the months leading up to the trial, judge Edward Chen made several rulings that carry the potential to shape its outcome, including one that bars the EPA from providing evidence of fluoride’s health benefits.

The case, being tried without a jury, was filed under the federal Toxic Substances Control Act, and this is the first time a citizen’s petition under that law has made it to the trial stage, Robert Sussman, a former EPA deputy administrator, told FairWarning. “This is very much a precedent setting case which is going down a road nobody’s traveled down before,” Sussman said.

If the plaintiffs are successful, the case won’t necessarily signal the end to water fluoridation, but could cause the EPA to limit how much fluoride can be added. Any new rules could take years to implement.

“This is a good public health exercise,” said Mike Keegan, regulatory analyst for the National Rural Water Association, which represents officials of small community water systems. “You want to make sure this is an asset you’re putting into the water supply.”

This story was produced by FairWarning (, a nonprofit news organization based in Southern California that focuses on public health, consumer and environmental issues.


Funding for Bull Run projects on City Council agenda

Pamplin Media Group – The Outlook

Jim Redden

The City Council will consider authorizing up to $745 million worth of revenue bonds to help fund two major Portland Water Bureau projects on Wednesday, April 8.

The two Bull Run Treatment projects are the planned Filtration Plant currently estimated at $820 million and the Corrosion Control Facility approved at $20 million.

According to a financial impact statement accompanying the ordinance, additional costs including contingencies, financing, indirect costs and inflation could push the final costs of the projects to approximately $1.5 billion.

The authorization is necessary for the city to qualify for low-interest federal funding for the projects under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act intended to support such local projects.

If approved, the WIFIA loan would lock in low U.S. Treasury interest rates and save the city $350 million in debt payments after the completion of the projects.

The Filtration Plant is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Health Authority to remove potentially deadly Cryptosporidium from Bull Run water. The corrosion control project is intended to reduce lead entering drinking water from homes and buildings plumbed between 1970 and 1985.

The city estimates construction of the Bull Run Treatment Projects will create 7,500 direct construction jobs. Contracts related to the projects ensure contractors are paying prevailing wage rates and maximizing opportunities for disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, emerging small businesses, and Service Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise contractors and subcontractors.

You can find the ordinance and impact statement here.


Oregon to get $1.1M as part of EPA $2.2M drinking water program grant

SEATTLE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $2.2 million grant for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to help identify sources of lead in drinking water in schools and child-care facilities.

The funds are provided through EPA’s new drinking water grant program established by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act Voluntary Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care grant program.

“Ensuring access to clean drinking water and protecting children from exposure to lead are critically important to EPA,” EPA Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick said Wednesday in a press release. “This funding will support our states’ efforts to keep children in schools and child care programs safe from the adverse health impacts of lead in drinking water.”

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development will use $111,000 to initiate a testing program for lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities, prioritizing facilities serving children under 6-years old and in under-served and low-income populations.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality will use $285,000 to test for lead in drinking water, focused on facilities serving young children and in facilities that are older and more likely to contain lead plumbing.

The Oregon Department of Education will get $1.1 million to provide funding, training and technical assistance to schools and child care facilities to test for lead in drinking water. Under state laws enacted in 2017, all public schools and licensed child care facilities are required to test for lead in all water used for drinking or food preparation.

The Washington State Department of Health will use $723,000 to expand their program to conduct lead testing in child care facilities in addition to public schools. The state will test water fixtures used for drinking or cooking, prioritizing facilities serving children who are most vulnerable to lead exposure.


Bill would create task force to address groundwater nitrates in NE Oregon

SALEM — Oregon lawmakers will consider a bill during the upcoming legislative session aimed at curbing elevated levels of groundwater nitrates in the Lower Umatilla Basin.

State Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, recently introduced Senate Bill 1562, which calls for the Oregon Department of Agriculture to form a new task force that would review existing data and recommend solutions to the area’s decades-old groundwater problem.

The Lower Umatilla Basin in northeast Oregon is home to some of the state’s most productive farmland, with thousands of grazing cattle and vast fields of irrigated crops. But rising levels of groundwater nitrates could pose a public health threat if left unchecked.

Regulators declared the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area in 1990 to identify and mitigate sources of nitrogen contamination, including from agricultural operations.

Hansell, whose Senate district includes the 550-square-mile management area spanning  parts of Umatilla and Morrow counties, said his bill builds on work that is already being done in the basin. It allocates $250,000 to ODA for the inter-agency task force that would evaluate strategies for reducing groundwater nitrates.

“It will go directly to the Umatilla Basin,” Hansell said. “We’re not asking for a multi-groundwater study throughout the state.”

The task force would include representatives of ODA and the state Department of Environmental Quality, as well as two members of the local management area committee and three members at large — one of whom must be a farmer or rancher with experience irrigating and fertilizing cropland.

Hansell said the funding was originally proposed in ODA’s 2019-21 budget.

“There was no opposition to it, but it did not get funded,” Hansell said. “It was brought to my attention how important that would have been to the Umatilla Basin.”

Tests of groundwater wells show nitrates in parts of the management area exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “maximum contaminate level” of 10 milligrams per liter. Exposure to such high levels of nitrates and nitrites in food and drinking water may be linked to a condition called methemoglobinemia, or a decreased ability of blood to carry oxygen in the body, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

J.R. Cook, founder and director of the Northeast Oregon Water Association, said Hansell’s bill directs the task force to study groundwater connectivity in the basin, which in turn will lead to more targeted, site-specific solutions for reducing nitrates.

“There’s been a ton of work in the (management area) to identify each and every potential contributor and develop game plans for each of those nutrient loads,” Cook said. “But what we need to do is get into a task force and then break it out by aquifer, because what we can do to manage (nitrates) in one area isn’t going to be a fix for another area.”

The proposal comes as activists with eight groups and one individual filed a petition with the EPA on Jan. 16 requesting emergency action in the management area. Among other measures, the petition asks the federal government to ban any new confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in the basin, such as the Easterday Farms Dairy near Boardman.

The petition was signed by Food and Water Watch, Friends of Family Farmers, WaterWatch of Oregon, Columbia Riverkeeper, Humane Voters Oregon, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity and Eileen Laramore, a resident of Hermiston.

Nitrate is found in most fertilizers and manure, which are frequently applied to cropland in the area. The activists’ petition claims CAFOs are a primary contributor to elevated groundwater nitrates.

Ten CAFOs are currently permitted in the basin with a combined 148,000 animals, according to the petition. Easterday Farms Dairy would add 28,300 cattle if approved by the state.

“Mega-dairies externalize their significant public health and environmental costs to the people of Oregon, and if our state legislators cannot protect Oregonians, we must enforce our federal laws to protect community drinking water,” said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety.

Critics, however, say the groups used generalized and cherry-picked data to target one specific industry.

While Cook acknowledges there are “hot spots” of elevated nitrates in the basin, he said there is no “smoking gun” that suggests dairies or farms are entirely to blame. Contamination comes from multiple sources, he said, including legacy pollution from past land uses dating back to the 1940s and 1950s.

“Some of these areas have shown significant improvement, if you localize the data under best management practices and voluntary measures,” Cook said.

The goal now should be fixing the problem, Cook said, not arguing over whose fault it is.

“If you get rid of CAFOs, the nitrate problem is not going to magically go away,” Cook said. “If you get rid of irrigated agriculture, it’s not going to magically go away.”

Ocean acidification is impacting Dungeness crabs, Oregon’s most-notable fishery, stare reveals

Invest Records

Other folks that produce their living on the waters off the Oregon circulate contain prolonged acknowledged that ocean acidification is a area. As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it becomes extra acidic and carbonate ions, which many crustaceans utilize to manufacture their shells, turn into scarce.

Between 2006 and 2008, the Whiskey Creek Hatchery on Netarts Bay seen big oyster larvae die-offs and shellfish in any other spots along the West Coast contain skilled connected complications. But up till now, ocean acidification has no longer posed threats to Oregon’s most commercially notable shellfish: the Dungeness crab. That may no longer be the case.

On Wednesday, researchers from the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a stare that for the well-known time reveals that corrosive ocean waters are inflicting damage to the shells of larval Dungeness crabs and hampering the enchancment of indispensable sensory organs on the crustaceans. And, as fossil gas utilize continues to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it’s taking place a long time sooner than researchers had predicted.

“We didn’t mediate we’d peep this roughly dissolution till the heart of the century,” mentioned Nina Bednarsek, senior scientist with the Southern California Coastal Water Analysis Challenge and lead creator of the stare. “They’re grand less safe than previously proven.”

While old research conducted in labs contain proven that ocean acidification can contain inaccurate outcomes on Dungeness crabs, this stare marks the well-known to expose the outcomes on larval crabs of their natural ambiance.

“It’s basically onerous to display the outcomes of climate change and ocean acidification in the sphere luxuriate in this. That’s the basically recent facet of this work.” mentioned George Waldbusser, an ocean ecology professor at Oregon Voice University, who used to be no longer half of the stare. “There’s extra work to be accomplished, but here is an awfully notable step.”

Old research has proven that the ocean absorbs as grand as 25 p.c of human-made carbon dioxide. Because the carbon mixes into the ocean, chemical reactions in the water column form extra hydrogen ions and fewer carbonate ions, lowering pH ranges and extending acidity. The topic is mostly exacerbated in shut to-shore waters where upwelling brings chilly, acidic waters from the depths to the surface. Varied federal researchers contain found that ocean waters off the West Coast are acidifying at twice the price of world common.

Bednarsek and a bunch of scientists quiet samples of larval crabs on a research cruise in 2016 that spanned the West Coast from Mexico to the Canadian border, utilizing nets to flit the waters shut to the surface, where crabs congregate at evening to feed. They motored on traces perpendicular to the circulate, from the deep ocean some distance offshore to the shallow waters shut to the seaside where acidification is mostly extra pronounced and where Dungeness crabs grow and broken-down.

Assist in the lab, Bednarsek checked out the crabs’ shells, acknowledged as its carapace, underneath an electron microscope. She seen scars and irregular ridging on surfaces that were typically mushy, triggered by the corrosive chemical makeup of shut to-shore waters. Bednarsek moreover seen, to her shock, that the acidic water used to be impacting the crabs’ ability to grow hair-luxuriate in sensory organs referred to as mechanoreceptors. Acidic water triggered the receptors, which support the crabs navigate their ambiance, to tumble out in some of the animals quiet for the stare.

The damage to their shells and the inability of their sensory receptors also can alter their swimming conduct and impair their ability to administration their buoyancy, making them simpler pickings for predators.

Dungeness crab is Oregon’s Most great single-species commercial fishery, mentioned Caren Braby, a marine program supervisor with the Oregon Division of Fish and Plants and fauna, which regulates industry. Roughly 16 million kilos of Dungeness crab are pulled from the reveal’s coastal waters per annum, in accordance to the reveal, and the creatures’ meaty legs and claws are opinion of a delicacy by many. Crab fishing is moreover an integral half of coastal tradition in areas luxuriate in Newport and Astoria.

“In relation to all fishermen in Oregon contain some connection to Dungeness crab. It’s a powerhouse of industrial price.” she mentioned. “The findings, that there are feeble spots in the life cycle linked to altering ocean circumstances, are very regarding.”

Ocean acidification is staunch one among loads of stressors affecting the ecosystem off Oregon’s circulate, Braby defined. Ocean water is getting warmer, increasing the likelihood of poisonous algal blooms and seasonal areas of low oxygen, acknowledged as hypoxia, are inflicting adjustments to the meals net, from the smallest species of plankton to top predators luxuriate in sea lions and whales.

“As administration, we study things luxuriate in where create we decrease stress,” Braby mentioned, explaining that the reveal regulates the harvest of species luxuriate in Dungeness crab in a technique that can give protection to the animals themselves and the livelihoods of these who purchase them.

Bednarsek mentioned extra research would be notable to fully realize the prolonged-term impacts of ocean acidification on Dungeness crabs. Unlike bivalves, which keep their shells for their total lives, crabs shed their carapace as they grow so the damage to their shells as larvae also can simply no longer severely affect their ability to broken-down. What is neatly understood, even though, is that ocean acidification is likely to expand as prolonged as carbon dioxide emissions remain tough.

“With adjustments expected, we are able to peep grand extra outcomes,” Bednarsek mentioned. “If you occur to do no longer know here is taking place, that you just may perhaps no longer create one thing. If you occur to create, you furthermore mght can manage it.”

— Kale Williams



Crystal Geyser Water Pleads Guilty to Dumping Arsenic into California’s Ecosystem

By Benjamin VanHoose

January 16, 2020
People Magazine

The company that makes Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water has admitted to illegally handling hazardous wastes at its facility in Olancha, California.

On Jan. 9, CG Roxane, LLC, the company behind the bottled water brand, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of unlawful transportation of hazardous material.

In a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court, the beverage-maker agreed to pay a criminal fine of $5 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The groundwater that CG Roxane sourced from the Sierra Nevada mountains in California contained naturally occurring arsenic, which it filtered out using sand filters.

“To maintain the effectiveness of the sand filters, CG Roxane back-flushed the filters with a sodium hydroxide solution, which generated thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated wastewater,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.

The statement clarified that the case concerned the violations in handling and transporting the wastewater, and not the safety of the Crystal Geyser bottled water, which is sold nationwide in stores like Walmart.

Representatives from CG Roxane did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

CG Roxane then released the arsenic-contaminated wastewater into a manmade pond for about 15 years, according to court documents. The dumping site was known as “the Arsenic Pond.”

The issue first came to the attention of local authorities in March 2013 when a sample of the pond showed arsenic levels at more than eight times the hazardous waste limit.

In 2015, the company was instructed to remove the Arsenic Pond. The removal that was conducted that May “was done without the proper manifest and without identifying the wastewater as a hazardous material,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The arsenic-contaminated wastewater was ultimately transported to a Southern California facility that was not authorized to receive or treat hazardous waste,” read the press release. “As a result, more than 23,000 gallons of the wastewater from the Arsenic Pond allegedly was discharged into a sewer without appropriate treatment.”

The two companies that were hired to transport and treat the wastewater are scheduled to go on trial on April 21. If convicted, according to the Department of Justice, each company would face a maximum fine of $8 million.

On the Crystal Geyser official website, the brand describes itself as a “good citizen and partner in each of the seven communities” where it produces the beverages.

The company also produces bottled water in Benton, Tennessee; Johnstown, New York; Moultonborough, New Hampshire; Mount Shasta, California; Norman, Arizona; and Salem, South Carolina.

“We actively participate in supporting our communities, from providing excellent local employment opportunities, to community sponsorships and college scholarships,” reads the website. “All while protecting the natural surroundings, environments and habitats of our spring water sources.”

‘Forever chemicals’ found in water at Oregon National Guard bases, school

Eastern Oregonian

BEND — The supply of drinking water at the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program on Dodds Road near Bend, as well as nine other national guard facilities in Oregon, contains toxic fluorinated chemicals, according to data released by a Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization.

While the levels of PFAS chemicals in the water fall within those considered safe by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, some scientists are concerned that even low levels are unhealthy.

The Environmental Working Group, the D.C.-based nonprofit, issued its findings on the PFAS levels on Sept. 11. The group obtained its information from newly released Department of Defense test results under the Freedom of Information Act.

Nicknamed “forever chemicals,” PFAS chemicals never break down in the environment and accumulate in the human body. The chemicals can be found in nonstick pans, waterproof clothing and food packaging, such as microwave popcorn bags. They are also found in firefighting foam, a common product used for training on military bases.

Studies link these chemicals to thyroid problems, cancer and child development issues, especially if exposed at levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s lifetime health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.

“PFAS are man-made chemicals that should not be in drinking water and raise concerns when they are detected,” said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. “Although the concentrations found in water are often in the low parts per trillion, these chemicals are potent in incredibly small amounts.”

The Youth Challenge Program, as well as the other national guard sites, draws water from an on-site well. The National Guard facility on Simpson Avenue in Bend is connected to the city water supply and was therefore not tested.

The youth program is Oregon’s only accredited statewide alternative high school and uses a nontraditional education model similar to a military academy. Targeted students are those who are failing or have dropped out of traditional high schools.

Frank Tallman, the school’s deputy director, said the school conducts water testing on a monthly basis and has so far found no contaminants.

The other site tested in Deschutes County was the Central Oregon Unit Training Equipment Site, east of Redmond Airport, said Jim Arnold, environmental branch chief for the Oregon Military Department. Vehicles and equipment for the Biak Training Center, located about 1 mile away, are housed at the site.

Other military bases in Oregon that had some trace elements of PFAS include the Christmas Valley Air Force Station, Roseburg Armory, Grants Pass Armory, the Lane County Armed Forces Reserve Center and the Anderson Readiness Center in Salem.

Testing at the Youth Challenge site was conducted in June 2017, according to Department of Defense data reviewed by The Bulletin.

Aqueous film-forming foam concentrates, also known as firefighting foam, have been identified as a major source of contamination at most Department of Defense facilities, said Andrews.

While earlier generations of firefighting foam had high levels of PFAS, those foams are no longer used in training exercises, said Maj. Stephen Bomar, public affairs officer for the Oregon National Guard. Rainstorms can cause chemicals to leach into the ground and groundwater, Bomar said.

With the completion of the Defense Department testing, the next move is to identify where the chemicals were released, Bomar said. Inspectors will sample the soil and water.

Among the Oregon National Guard facilities, the highest level of detected PFAS chemicals was found at the Christmas Valley site, which had 14.3 total parts per trillion detected. The Oregon Youth Challenge site had 9.75 parts per trillion detected and the site near the Redmond Airport had 3.72 parts per trillion detected, according to the Environmental Working Group report.

These numbers were far lower than other detected PFAS levels elsewhere in the country. The Joint Forces Training Base in California, for example, registered 790.5 parts per trillion.

The chemicals are not uncommon among American public drinking water systems, studies show. They have been found in the drinking water of 19 million Americans in 49 states, according to a study by Northeastern University. The Environmental Working Group reports as many as 400 military sites nationwide have water with known or suspected PFAS contamination.

In response to its findings, the Army has installed filtration systems — or changed water sources — at all locations where the drinking water contamination from the chemicals exceeded the lifetime health advisory.

“At this point we are following the EPA and (Department of Environmental Quality) lead to continue using (the water) as normal,” said Arnold. “That 70 part per trillion is the advisory level and the level (at the school) is well below that.”

There are currently no U.S. Army personnel or families drinking water that contain contaminants above the lifetime health advisory, according to the Army in a statement to Environmental Working Group.

But the group believes that any level above 1 part per trillion is an unsafe level.

“These results are alarming because they show that PFAS contamination of the water provided to our soldiers is nationwide and exposes them to a number of types of PFAS,” said Andrews, the working group scientist.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is working with several military sites in the state to assess PFAS levels from firefighting foam.

“The DEQ isn’t aware of any drinking water wells in Oregon that exceed EPA health levels,” said Laura Gleim, public affairs specialist for the department’s office in Bend. “PFAS are emerging chemicals of concern, and DEQ is working with Oregon Health Authority to identify a plan for how to address these chemicals more broadly in Oregon’s environment.”

“The levels detected at Oregon military sites are below the current EPA health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, which is the level set to protect public health,” Gleim added.

Governments are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of fluorinated chemicals. This week, Denmark became the first country to ban PFAS in food packaging.

Pending legislation in Congress would for the first time mandate new monitoring and cleanup by the Department of Defense and the EPA. The changes will appear in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for 2020. The bills would end the Pentagon’s use of fluorinated firefighting foam and end the military’s use of PFAS in food packaging.

In July, the Trump administration voiced opposition to the bills, saying they would be vetoed if brought to the Oval Office.

“Congress should not wait for President Trump’s EPA to act,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “The final NDAA must quickly end the Defense Department’s use of PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, and kick-start efforts to clean up legacy PFAS pollution.”


Growing number of toxic algae blooms worries Oregon Legislature

, Salem Statesman Journal     March 15, 2019

Oregon lawmakers are scrambling to come up with a long-term plan for detecting and responding to harmful algal blooms in drinking and recreational water supplies.

The push follows several recent incidents, including a toxic algae bloom that shut down Salem’s municipal water supply for more than a month last year.

In that case, a bungled alert caused a brief panic, followed by a run on bottled water that left store shelves stripped clean throughout the Willamette Valley.

 “We as a state got caught a little flat footed,” Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, said at a public hearing this week on three bills proposed to tackle the issue. “We didn’t have the quick turnaround times we probably needed.”

Last fall, following Salem’s crisis, the Legislature provided additional funding for laboratory equipment and a temporary testing position, to ensure testing for toxins could be done locally rather than being sent out of state.

But Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget doesn’t include continued funding for personnel to conduct the testing, said Mark Landauer, of the Special Districts Association of Oregon.

Brown “…will continue to evaluate needs to protect Oregon communities throughout the legislative session,” her spokeswoman, Kate Kondayen, said.

Only a fraction of Oregon water bodies currently are monitored and sampled for toxic algae, said Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene.

The proposed legislation is modeled on programs in Washington and California.

“All three of these concepts are really focused on, in many ways, a reaction or response to a changing climate,” Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth said. “A lot of the things we’re going to have to adjust to.”

House Bill 3340 requires the Oregon Health Authority to identify susceptible water sources; develop a system to monitor and test those sources; and develop a protocol for issuing hazard advisories to the public.

It requires the Department of Environmental Quality to develop a coordinated state agency strategy for algal bloom monitoring and response, and maintain a publicly accessible clearinghouse of algal bloom data.

And it requires DEQ to identify sources of pollution contributing to algal blooms and develop plans to reduce those pollutants.

House Bill 3326 contains most of the same provisions as HB 3340.It also appropriates nearly $1 million from the general fund to DEQ to carry out its work.

Both bills would apply to drinking water and recreational water sources.

House Bill 2944 creates a new Task Force on Oregon’s Domestic Water Supply, and charges it with completing a report on how to prevent and control toxic algal blooms.

The report, due in September 2020, would include strategies for sampling, testing and inspecting water supplies; fielding fixed and mobile mitigation equipment; and prioritizing funding for the highest-risk environments. The bill applies only to drinking water sources.

Contact the reporter at, 503-399-6779 or follow at


Fixing The Willamette’s Toxic Algae Problem Could Start At Ross Island

It’s not unusual for toxic algal blooms to close a lake or pond. And in recent years, these algae have been contaminating another type of swimming spot: the Willamette River. In early August, the Oregon Health Authority advised Portland residents to keep themselves and their pets out of the water in certain areas.

Such warnings have become increasingly common along Portland’s stretch of the Willamette, and most of the blooms have been traced back to one location: the lagoon on Ross Island just upstream of downtown Portland. The Human Access Project, an organization that aims to get more Portland residents swimming in the river, wants to change the nature of Ross Island lagoon to prevent blooms like this in the future.

Thanks to restoration efforts, Ross Island is a small oasis in the middle of the Willamette. It hosts populations of deer, riparian forests and dozens of types of birds.

But the lagoon has all the things toxic algae needs to thrive, according to Dr. Theo Dreher, a microbiologist at Oregon State University. These blooms are caused by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, which live best in warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich water. The lagoon has all three.

“The bacteria grow in the lagoon, like a lake. But they can be swept out through a passage downstream, where they can remain viable for quite a long time,” Dreher said.

It’s the same type of phenomenon that contaminated Salem’s water earlier this summer: Cells from a toxic algal bloom in Detroit Lake flowed down the Santiam and into the city’s water.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, there have been a few small blooms linked to other areas on the Willamette over the years. But none of those blooms have produced enough toxins to lead to a health advisory. The lagoon at Ross Island, however, has created severe blooms four out of the last five years. Those blooms have been linked to record-high temperatures in the air and in the river, and low snowpack in the Cascades.

Once there’s been a major bloom in the area, Dreher said, you’re more likely to get another. Some cyanobacteria survive the winter, waiting for the right conditions to bloom again. And climate change is expected to make those conditions occur more frequently.

Willie Levenson, whose official job title is ringleader of the Human Access Project, is concerned that the blooms could get large enough to make summer river swims a thing of the past.

“It’s possible blooms could start in the spring and last all summer, if we don’t do something,” Levenson said.

He’d like to see water circulation restored to the Ross Island lagoon, which did not always exist. It was created in 1926, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a levee between Ross and Hardtack islands, cutting off much of the water circulation.

“Maybe we could build a channel, or put in pumps or a fish passage,” Levenson suggested.

Dreher said getting the stagnant water moving probably would stop the blooms, because cyanobacteria don’t reproduce well in moving water.

Doing so would require cooperation from multiple actors. The Ross Island lagoon is listed as a contaminated site by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. For the last several years, Ross Island Sand and Gravel capped and cleaned known contaminated sites, and began restoring the lagoon by filling in parts of a 300-foot-deep mine site.

Any effort to restore water circulation couldn’t conflict with Ross Island Sand and Gravel’s restoration orders, according to Randy Steed, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

Steed said the company is open to suggestions, as long as they fit within the constraints of their operating permits. But, he noted, any cooperation with the Human Access Project is in very early stages. According to Steed, “we haven’t even spitballed any plans yet.”

Additionally, the company does not control the entire island system: It only operates on the north end of the island. Other parts of the island are controlled by the Port of Portland. Other parts of the island are owned by the city of Portland and maintained as green space.

In the meantime, the Oregon Health Authority continues to monitor the Willamette for toxic algae. Currently, there are no detectable levels of cyanobacteria-caused toxins outside of Ross Island lagoon, and the health authority has updated their advisory to reflect this. But summer isn’t over, and the water in the lagoon is still dotted with bright green colonies. The bloom could come back, and the river could become unsafe to swim in again.