The Environmental Protection Agency granted Columbia Riverkeeper $125,452 to reduce toxic pollution in the Columbia River Basin by funding community education and outreach.
The Columbia River Pollution Education and Outreach Project will promote the EPA’s pollution reduction goals by educating and inspiring community members. The project has also been previously funded by the EPA in 2021 and 2020.
The Columbia Riverkeeper will use the funding to bolster two main initiatives — Conoce tu Columbia, a bilingual Spanish-language radio show, and a pollution prevention curriculum for students in kindergarten through community college.
“They are incredible ways to be in conversation with people about their connection to the natural world, and specifically, with the Columbia,” said Lauren Goldberg, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper.”
The funding comes from a recent $6.9 million investment from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to protect and restore the Columbia River Basin through the EPA, allowing the EPA to grow the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program.
Congress amended the Clean Water Act in 2016 by adding Section 123, creating the Columbia River Basin Restoration Program to restore and clean the area.
The Columbia River Basin stretches over 260,000 miles and seven states. It provides the Northwest with hydropower, flood control, irrigation navigation and recreation. It also offers economic benefits for fishing and agriculture.
However, human activities have contributed to its contamination.
According to Columbia Riverkeeper, wastewater treatment plants discharge more than 100 toxic substances into the Columbia River, and certain species of fish contain high levels of cancer-causing chemicals.
The Columbia River Basin also houses the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the U.S. federal government on the Columbia River in Benton County. The waste from the Hanford Nuclear Reservationsite has soaked into the soil and created plumes of contaminants, which are underground rivers where water mixes with chemicals, according to the Department of Energy.
Goldberg said although the EPA funding will help bolster the education part of Columbia Riverkeeper’s work, there’s more that can and should be done to promote the Columbia River Basin’s health overall.
“It does not fund our advocacy work or litigation,” she said. “We’re actively working on climate policy in Vancouver right now. We rely on donations from people that care about the Columbia River and other foundations to support that kind of work.”
The Columbia River Pollution Education and Outreach Project is one of seven initial grants totaling $1.8 million. An additional 18 projects will be funded by fall.