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EPA Rejects Plan To Reduce Mercury Pollution In The Willamette Basin

The Environmental Protection Agency has declined approval for a proposal to reduce mercury pollution in the Willamette Basin.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Total Maximum Daily Load plan for mercury was denied approval by the EPA, which said it did not comply with the Clean Water Act and federal regulations.

“We are disappointed that they didn’t approve this plan, which we did spend considerable time and effort on and we believe would go a long ways to reducing mercury levels in the river, and would protect people who eat fish from the river,” Department of Environmental Quality’s Harry Esteve said.

The EPA concluded that Oregon’s approach would not sufficiently reduce mercury pollution in certain tributaries of the Willamette, as well as in a section of the Willamette River itself.

Consumption of mercury-contaminated fish can result in negative health effects over time. They include damage to the organs, nervous system and reproductive system. Fetuses, babies and small children are especially vulnerable to the health effects of mercury, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“EPA disapproved the TMDL because of the approach. The mercury standard would not be consistently met, in their view, throughout the whole river system. Some tributaries and reaches of the Willamette would exceed the standard and other areas would meet it,” Willamette Riverkeeper’s Travis Williams said. “The EPA would like to see the literal standard met in every tributary to the Willamette as well as all reaches of main stem river.”

The EPA has 30 days to prepare a new mercury plan for the Willamette Basin and will release it for public comment.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Monica Samayoa