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Ecology and salmon related articles

Bonneville To McNary: Fish Samples Show High Levels
of Toxic Pollutants, Degraded Riparian Areas

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 30, 2012

The little-studied lower-middle section of the Columbia River, a 150-mile stretch between Cascade Locks and Bonneville Dam on the west and Umatilla and McNary Dam on the east, has "generally good" water quality for recreational use but suffers from fish habitat degradation.

Fish samples from the area show potentially harmful levels of toxic pollutants, according to a recently released Oregon Department of Environmental Quality study.

DEQ's Lower Mid-Columbia Ecological Assessment summarizes the results of nearly five years of scientific planning, research and analysis.

It fills data gaps for conventional water quality pollutants such as bacteria, temperature, nutrients and dissolved oxygen. It examines other contaminants including PCBs, mercury, flame retardants and banned pesticides such as DDT.

The study also assesses habitat conditions on the lower mid-Columbia and its major tributaries in Oregon and Washington.

"This study is the first of its kind for this section of the river. It helps us better understand general water quality conditions in the Columbia and the extent of contamination in fish in the river," says Aaron Borisenko, manager of the DEQ Laboratory's water quality monitoring program, which produced the study.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the Columbia River as one of seven

"Great Water Bodies" deserving of special attention and protection from environmental harm, Borisenko noted.

The study involved collecting water and fish tissue samples at 31 locations along the lower-middle Columbia. Most of the study's field work took place in 2009, followed by chemical analysis, data reviews and development of the final report.

The study's main findings:

DEQ plans to use the study's findings to assist local, state and federal agencies as well as tribes to address Columbia River pollution. The study's data will also help DEQ target follow-up monitoring in areas of concern and to streamline its method of monitoring toxic pollutants.

An EPA grant largely funded the project. DEQ directly funded 25 percent of the field work as well as provided project management, planning, sample analysis, data compilation and final reporting.

For more information about toxic pollutants in Oregon waters see, CBB, Oct. 21, 2011, "EPA Approves Toughened Oregon Water Quality Standards Based On Higher 'Fish Consumption Rate'

Related Pages:
Estuary Report: Columbia River Salmon Show High Levels of Toxic Contaminants, Monitoring Inadequate by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 6/11/10

Bonneville To McNary: Fish Samples Show High Levels of Toxic Pollutants, Degraded Riparian Areas
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 30, 2012

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