Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Oregonian's Sewage Problem Amnesia

Oregonian reporter Anna Griffin wrote the following on Sunday regarding Portland's sewage leak problems:

City and state leaders, who enforce federal water quality laws for the EPA, say Portland is doing everything it can to prevent untreated sewage and storm water from reaching public waterways. Federal regulators say Portland must do more.
Oregonian, January 15, 2005

What's really strange is that less than two months ago, the same Anna Griffin noted that Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) slapped huge fines on Portland precisely because it too thought Portland was negligent and should do more. She wrote:

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality slapped the city of Portland with nearly $500,000 in fines Monday for allowing raw sewage to reach Portland-area waterways 67 times over a four-year period -- the first in what could be a season of bad news from state and federal regulators.
Oregonian, November 22, 2005

In levying those fines, Oregon's DEQ publicly cited specific health and environmental concerns regarding Portland's sewage control system.

Oregon environmental law prohibits sewage overflows to state waters because sewage contains disease-carrying bacteria which are a threat to public health and the environment. Many of these discharges occurred during dry weather, when there was a greater likelihood of human contact with sewage in local streams and the Willamette. Sewage is also a significant water pollutant that can harm aquatic life and cause public waters to be unsuitable for recreation, commercial and agricultural uses.

Ms. Griffin's Sunday report leaves the impression that Oregon environmental quality officials have no concerns with Portland's sewage spills. That's not true, and she and the Oregonian should correct that impression. This was poor reporting.

Portland's negligence has polluted and, without significant pressure to change, is very likely to continue to pollute public waters and endanger public health and the environment. The EPA's concern and pressure on Portland to clean up its sewage and runoff failures and protect its water supply is welcome to citizens who have to suffer the effects of Portland's negligent polluting.

(For a more indepth account of the DEQ fines and reporters' penchant to give City officials a pass on polluting public waters see:

Clean and Safe Waters Are Just Too Expensive for Portland
Tribune Coverage of City Sewer Deal Stinks)

1 comment:

Dianne Grover said...

This post reminds us to be more responsible and aware of what is happening around us. We may think that that water coming out from our faucets at home are clean until such time that a family member gets sick. Taking the time to check our drainage, pipeline, thermowell installation , faucets - and reading from informative resources such as this one will help us understand what needs to be done in order to enure a safe and clean water supply.