Northeastern Oregon Dairy Food Processors Offer to Pay for Water Testing – Oregon Capital Chronicle

In response to groundwater nitrate emergency In Morrow County, several food processors, a factory farm and an Amazon data center have stepped up to pay for drinking water testing and water distribution for people who depend on wells drawing from a contaminated aquifer.

Amazon Web Services, Boardman Foods, Lamb Weston, Calbee North America, Tillamook County Creamery Association, and Threemile Canyon Farms are creating a business coalition to help the Morrow County Health Department work to meet drinking water needs, according to a press release issued Monday by the Boardman Chamber of Commerce.

The move comes after Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty launched an effort to step up testing and provide water to residents living at the top of the polluted aquifer. He requested money from state and federal authorities to deal with the emergency.

Almost all of the companies in the newly announced coalition operate out of the industrial complex run by the Port of Morrow.

It was recently discovered that the government agency had pumped 260 tons of excess nitrogen from farms in the area, in violation of state restrictions. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality fined the port $1.3 million in January, then last week increased the fine to $800,000 after finding the port was continuing to pumping illegal amounts of nitrogen onto area farms even after the January enforcement action was taken.

This excess nitrogen is “likely to cause additional negative impacts” on groundwater nitrate levels, according to the DEQ’s revised penalty.

Port officials disputed the initial sanction.

Well users in Morrow County draw water from the lower Umatilla Basin, which has become increasingly contaminated with nitrates over the past 30 years from agricultural fertilizers, animal manure and sewage of the port and food processors in the region. There are approximately 1,300 private domestic wells that draw water from this basin in Morrow County. Many of those who depend on these wells for their drinking water are low-income and Latino.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nitrate-rich water consumed over long periods of time can lead to stomach, bladder, and bowel cancers, as well as miscarriages and “blue baby syndrome,” preventing pregnancy. oxygen to move through the infant’s blood.

An investigation earlier this year by the Capital Chronicle revealed contamination at the port had persisted much longer more than three years, and with little application from DEQ until recently.

Many of the companies that have stepped up to help with water testing and drinking water distribution are also sources of nitrate contamination in the groundwater area of ​​the lower Umatilla Basin. The Groundwater Management Area Committee tasked with tackling the nitrate problem estimates that around 70% of contamination comes from farms, around 20% from dairy and beef farms and around 5% from food processors and the port .

One of the partners in the new collaboration is Threemile Canyon Farms, a large dairy that supplies the Tillamook County Creamery Association. The dairy, located in Boardman, operates outside the port complex.

Boardman Foods will start distributing water test kits from next Monday June 27 at its onion processing plant in Morrow Port. The contest will continue every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The company will accept water samples to send for analysis.

From Thursday, June 23, the Boardman chamber will also offer testing in its offices.

“This is an issue that affects all of our neighbors – local businesses are ready to serve and help,” according to a statement from Debbie Radie, vice president of operations for Boardman Foods.

The chamber’s statement does not specify how other companies will be involved in the water testing and distribution efforts. The chamber’s executive director, Torrie Griggs, did not return calls or emails on Monday.

The offer from local businesses to support clean water efforts adds to those launched this week by the Morrow County Emergency Management Team and the Oregon Department of Social Services.

Beginning Tuesday, June 21, bottled water will be available at the Morrow County Public Health Department office in Boardman from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Friday, water will be available from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The water is restricted to home well owners whose faucets have tested for 10 parts per million or more nitrate or well owners who are waiting to have their wells tested. County officials are asking well owners to bring proof of their nitrate test results to receive the emergency water supply.

Supplies are limited to two gallons per person per day, for a total of 14 gallons per person per week. Water can be delivered to people unable to reach distribution sites.

Do a water test:

Boardman Foods, 71320 E Columbia Blvd, Boardman OR 97818

Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Boardman Chamber of Commerce, 101 Olson Road, Boardman OR 97818

Get bottled water:

Boardman:

Public Health Department, 101 Boardman Ave. NW

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Irrigation:

County Government Building at Irrigon, 215 NE Main Ave.

Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Have drinking water delivered to you:

Dial 541-256-0514 to be added to the water distribution list.

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