Oregon sues Monsanto for $100 million over PCB water, soil pollution

The downtown Portland skyline is shown on the west bank of the Willamette River.
Oregon is suing the agrochemical giant Monsanto over PCB pollution that it says has contaminated dozens of its waterways and leached into ground soil around the state.
The lawsuit filed in Portland seeks $100 million in damages to undo pollution that state officials say has accumulated over decades.
(AP Photo/Don Ryan, 2012) PORTLAND — The state of Oregon sued the agrochemical company Monsanto on Thursday over pervasive pollution from PCBs, the toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades.
The company called the lawsuit baseless.
A 1937 internal company memo said that exposure to vapors at high temperatures or ingestion of the substances by animals produced “systemic toxic effects” and prolonged skin contact could lead to an acne-like rash, the lawsuit alleged.
“Monsanto voluntarily stopped producing PCBs more than 40 years ago and didn’t use or dispose of any PCBs in the state of Oregon.
When seals, eagles, osprey, orca whales and humans eat those fish, that contamination is passed on, the lawsuit alleged.
“PCBs cause a wide range of systemic toxic effects in humans and animals and can seriously impair the endocrine, neurologic, and reproductive systems,” the lawsuit said.
According to the EPA, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

Facing pressure, more schools scramble to confront dangers of lead in water

But for the next five months, no one told the parents of Summit’s 250 students.
School systems throughout the country have wrestled with lead in water for decades, in part because of the intractable problem of lead-bearing fixtures and pipes in aging buildings.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of schools face no state or federal laws that require testing, and crimped budgets and understaffed districts mean water testing seldom rises to a top priority.
But in a growing number of places, parents have become increasingly exasperated by the lack of transparency and delayed notification that often has accompanied the problem.
“We were not informed at all,” said Jeffery Hawkins, who said he learned from his daughter that fountains at her Milwaukee public school had tested for elevated lead levels.
The superintendent stepped down after the release of a scathing report that detailed the district’s failure to fix problems, and months later, Portland is still providing bottled water at its 90 schools — at an annual cost of about $850,000.
“It’s definitely been a very challenging year.
“It is way past the time we deal with this issue.” New York has gone further, with a new law requiring schools statewide to test drinking water for lead.
That means a tap that tests safe one day — no detectable lead — might show alarming levels in the water if checked another day.
“I don’t think we can base a nation’s response to lead in school drinking water on a lottery game.

Runners hit the pavement to support clean water education at Urban Runoff 5K

Runners hit the pavement to support clean water education at Urban Runoff 5K.
PORTLAND, Maine — Runners and environmentalists are celebrating Earth Day today at the Urban Runoff 5K and Festival.
Runners will hit the pavement and raise money to support clean water education at schools in Portland and Saco.
Lessons are provided by the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conversation District’s Connect Program, which gives students hands on lessons about water pollution in the classroom and outdoors.
The race kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The court takes racers through the suburbs of Portland, along the Forest City Trail, which is part of the Portland Trails System.
Top fundraisers and top fundraising teams will be awarded prizes after the race, as well as top female and male finishers in age groups and overall.
After the race is Portland’s Green Neighbor Family Fest, where families and community members can enjoy hands on activities about water, live entertainment, face painting and more.
WMTW News 8 is a proud sponsor of this event.

Federal Court Rules That Oregon Water Pollution Cleanup Plans Must Protect ESA Listed Fish

Federal Court Rules That Oregon Water Pollution Cleanup Plans Must Protect ESA Listed Fish.
A federal court sided with an Oregon environmental organization this week in a ruling that said the Environmental Protection Agency must comply with the Endangered Species Act in approving water pollution clean-up plans.
The lawsuit, brought by the Portland, OR-based Northwest Environmental Advocates, challenged EPA’s approval of Oregon water pollution clean-up plans that are intended to address the state’s widespread temperature problems.
The clean-up plans in question, developed under the federal Clean Water Act, did more than establish temperature limits for various pollution sources as required, said the NWEA.
The plans “actually changed Oregon’s temperature goals from cold temperatures to hot—and sometimes even lethal—temperatures,” the group contended.
Oregon District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez agreed with NWEA that EPA must comply with the Endangered Species Act in approving the pollution clean-up plans, called “Total Maximum Daily Loads” or “TMDLs.”The court held that “EPA’s approval of the TMDLs is what allowed for higher temperatures [that would harm the species].” “The Oregon temperature TMDLs were based on a rule that an earlier court decision threw out in 2012.Oregon had used the illegal rule every time it issued a temperature clean-up plan,” said NWEA in a press release following the ruling.
“The rule had allowed the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to change state water quality goals for temperature without any federal agency review or agreement, contrary to the requirements of the Clean Water Act.In some instances, Oregon raised allowable temperatures to levels that are lethal to salmon within seconds.” “In 2003, EPA said that temperatures of 90º F are instantaneously lethal to salmon at exposures under 10 seconds,” said NWEA Executive Director Nina Bell.“But that didn’t stop EPA from approving a DEQ clean-up plan for streams and rivers in the Umpqua Basin that changed Oregon’s water quality standards from 64º F to that same dangerously high temperature of 90º F.If EPA had consulted with the expert fish and wildlife agencies, as the court has just ruled the Endangered Species Act requires, those scientists would have told EPA that fish can’t live in lethally hot water.This is why today’s court decision is so important.” In today’s action, the court also adopted the recommendations of a federal magistrate judge, issued last October, that EPA’s approval of the Oregon temperature TMDLs should be invalidated.A TMDL contains limits for contributions of pollution via discharge permits and polluted runoff from land activities such as logging and farming.
The vast majority of waters that Oregon has identified as having unsafe levels of pollution, and which therefore require a TMDL, are impaired by high temperatures.
The court also gave EPA and Oregon DEQ two years in which to submit a new TMDL for mercury in the Willamette River basin.EPA had sought to voluntarily withdraw its approval of the Willamette Mercury TMDL.
NWEA is represented in this lawsuit by Bryan Telegin of Bricklin & Newman, LLP (Seattle) and Allison LaPlante of the Earthrise Law Center at Lewis and Clark Law School (Portland).

Residents improve communities near garbage facilities and landfills

From a chalk art festival in Forest Grove to fighting air pollution in Northwest Portland, residents around greater Portland worked together in 2016 to improve their neighborhoods using grants funded by garbage and recycling fees. The grants are awarded annually through Metro’s Community Enhancement Program. The program retains one dollar for every ton of garbage deposited at a participating transfer station or landfill in the greater Portland area, and then invests those funds in the surrounding areas. “The money is used to improve the quality of life in communities that host garbage and recycling facilities,” said Molly Chidsey, Metro community partnerships project manager. Seven cities participate in the program, including Forest Grove, Gresham, Portland, Oregon City, Sherwood, Troutdale and Wilsonville. On April 1, 60 or so Kenton residents gathered for “April Tool’s Day,” the grand opening celebration of the North Portland Tool Library Annex. The North Portland Tool Library, located in the basement of the Historic Kenton Firehouse, stocks 3,500 tools available for free loan to their 6,000 members. Before building the annex, members had the difficult and dangerous job of carrying large items such as table saws, ladders and lawn mowers up and down the basement stairs. Now, the tool library has an easy-to-access above-ground space for storing and repairing large tools. “As a member myself, I love saving space at home, and saving time and money by renting…