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U.S. EPA Gives Oregon's Water Quality Report A Mixed Review

Oregon’s 2010 water quality report has earned a mixed review from the U.S. EPA.

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the report a thumbs up for listing 970 places where rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs are polluted.

States use their lists to prioritize clean-up plans and to determine how much pollution industries, cities and towns may discharge to surface waters.

Some of the 970 segments on Oregon’s list included waters where fish tested positive for mercury.

“We all want to be able to eat fish that are free from contamination and so that is one area of our list that we have updated, and EPA has approved,” said Jennifer Wigal, who manages Oregon’s water quality standards and assessment programs.

The EPA dinged Oregon, however, for failing to include 1,004 water body segments it considers too polluted—or impaired.

According to a March 15, 2012 letter from the EPA to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality:

ODEQ failed to list waters for the following pollutants: bacteria, chlorophyll a, dissolved oxygen, pH, sedimentation, temperature, total dissolved gas and toxics.

Now the EPA will open a public comment period on the 1,004 segments of water it wants to add to Oregon’s list. After that time, the list will be finalized.

“It can tell us which waters are impaired or that aren’t meeting the goals in the state and that we need to do more in those water sheds to help clean them back up so they can meet those goals,” Wigal said.

States are supposed to file their EPA water quality reports, called the Integrated Report, every two years. Oregon fell behind on that work and did not file a report in 2008.

“We have been constrained in this program in terms of our available resources to do it. We’ve been challenged to keep up with technology,” Wigal said.

“I think there are some opportunities for us to be more efficient given the resources we do have. We don’t expect that to change any time soon so we have to continue to try to be innovative,” she said.

Oregon, Washington and Idaho’s Integrated Reports are on the EPA’s website.

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