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EPA Must Update Toxic Pollutant Water Quality Standards for Oregon

June 14, 2016

On behalf of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA), Earthrise has successfully resolved a lawsuit compelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate new water quality standards for the State of Oregon for three toxic pollutants: aluminum, cadmium, and copper. These three pollutants are known to be toxic to aquatic life, yet for decades Oregon has failed to update its standards in a way that is protective of endangered salmonids and other species that depend on clean rivers and streams. 

Under the terms of the Consent Decree signed by Judge Anna Brown, EPA is required to issue revised cadmium and copper water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life in Oregon by January 16, 2017, and to issue new aluminum criteria by September 28, 2018. Under the terms of a separate settlement agreement between NWEA and EPA, the agency will issue important directives to the State of Oregon regarding implementation of the Clean Water Act permitting program for these three toxic pollutants. 

“It is our hope that not only will Oregon’s water quality standards be updated for this century, but that the toxic pollutants that caused the greatest concern to the federal fish experts because of their effects on threatened and endangered salmonids will be better regulated between now and when EPA puts final protections in place,” said NWEA Executive Director, Nina Bell. 

NWEA is represented by Jamie Saul of the Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School. The case is Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. EPA et al., No. 15-cv-00663-BR (D. Or. filed April 20, 2015). 

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