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ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WIN COURT APPROVAL OF SETTLEMENT TO CLEAN UP OREGON'S POLLUTED WATERS
Federal District Court Judge Michael R. Hogan, approved a settlement last Wednesday between two environmental organizations and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the development of water pollution clean-up plans needed in Oregon. The settlement calls for the state to prepare Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) - a quantitative clean-up plan required by the federal Clean Water Act - for over 13,000 miles of rivers and streams and 32 lakes over a ten year period. In the settlement, EPA agrees to complete the work if Oregon fails to do it.
"We're very pleased the court approved a way to give Oregonians the clean water promised by the Clean Water Act over 28 years ago," said Nina Bell, Executive Director of Northwest Environmental Advocates, "We sought an agreement that would ensure that the government does a good job, and doesn't produce just a bunch of paperwork. Now it's up to Oregon to produce thoughtful and scientifically-based clean-up plans."
TMDL clean-up plans are required for all waterbodies that violate one
or more state water quality standards. The standards establish "safe"
levels for all kinds of pollution, from toxic chemicals to temperature.
TMDLs are cited as a solution to saving threatened and endangered salmon
in many documents including the Oregon Salmon Plan and the federal government's
recently-released Salmon Recovery Strategy.
NWEA and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) filed the lawsuit that led to the settlement in 1996, alleging that EPA had failed to develop TMDLs which it was required to do in light of the state's inaction. The two organizations had previously filed a lawsuit in 1994, also settled, alleging that EPA had failed to develop a list of waters in Oregon that require TMDLs.
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