Protecting Oregon's Environment
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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

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Success Stories of Protecting and Enhancing Oregon's Environment

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DEQ Reduces Pollution in the Willamette River Basin

Environmental Challenge

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" video

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.

Success Story

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 various sources.

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 river.

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 Willamette.
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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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