The Willamette River Basin is home to 70 percent of Oregon's
population and much of its urban, industrial, agricultural and forestry
activities. Early environmental pollution in the Willamette River Basin
resulted from cities and industries dumping untreated waste into the
river, creating conditions that could not support safe drinking water,
fishing or swimming.
As cities and industries began treating their wastewater in the
1950s, those initial water pollution problems improved.
View "A River Restored"
New concerns have emerged, however, with increased land-use
activities and a growing awareness of a wide range of chemicals found in
low concentrations throughout the basin.
Studies of the Willamette River found that one of the biggest threats
to clean water comes from polluted runoff that flows into the river from
To address this problem, DEQ works with cities, watershed councils,
businesses and other agencies to develop programs that reduce pollution
through erosion control, streamside plantings and changes in daily
practices by residents and businesses and requires industries to reduce
the amount of pollution in their water discharges.
DEQ also oversees the collection of potentially harmful pesticides
around the watershed area. Over 40,000 pounds of pesticides, fertilizers
and waste oil were collected in the Southern Willamette Basin during
pesticide collection events supported by DEQ.
Apart from industry sources of pollution, DEQ is now working to
identify problem pollutants that originate in consumer products,
including pesticides and flame retardants, to determine if they
contribute to pollution in the Willamette. Once pollution sources are
identified, DEQ will work with others to reduce their levels in the
Portland Harbor, a heavily industrialized stretch of the Willamette
River north of downtown Portland, was declared a Superfund site in 2000.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, DEQ and many other agencies,
tribal governments, community groups and companies are working to
investigate and clean up contamination along the river.
The Willamette River Basin is the largest watershed in Oregon, covering
more than 11,500 square miles and is home to over 2.3 million Oregon
residents. DEQ studies in the 1990s found that pollution in the main
river largely came from runoff. DEQ is now working with other agencies
and organizations to implement a water quality improvement plan for the