Friday, September 25, 2020
Sept. 25, 2020

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EPA petition seeks action on tainted drinking water

Groups want action on nitrates from dairies


Eight state and national health and environment groups are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take emergency action because they say Oregon regulators have failed to curb nitrate contamination in drinking water sources near large dairies and feedlots.

The groups filed a Safe Drinking Water Act petition with the EPA Thursday, saying the contamination presents “an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the residents of the Lower Umatilla Basin in Oregon.”

It asks for six specific actions, including supplying free drinking water to affected residents, and banning any new dairies or feedlots from opening in the area — which includes Hermiston, Boardman and Irrigon — until nitrate concentrations fall.

The Statesman-Journal reports the petition comes as state regulators are considering a permit for a new, 30,000-animal dairy in the area, which already is home to ten confined animal feeding operations allowed to house a total of 179,107 cattle.

The petition was filed by many of the same groups that have opposed that dairy and that have pushed lawmakers to impose a moratorium on new mega-dairies statewide.

Elevated nitrate levels in drinking water can increase the risk of birth defects, “blue-baby syndrome,” cancers and other health problems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The petition was signed by local organizations Friends of Family Farmers, Columbia Riverkeeper, WaterWatch of Oregon and Humane Voters Oregon; and by national groups Food & Water Watch, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety.