Summary Information
(last updated on: 7/1/2019 11:47:28 AM)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality concluded the on-site investigation June 18, 2019 into reports of drums at the bottom of Wallowa Lake labeled with the herbicides "2,4-D or 2,4,5-T." Contrary to previous reports by recreational divers, EPA and DEQ’s investigation found only one drum with the “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T” herbicide label. That 55-gallon drum was rusted out with holes and contained lake water.

Over the years, many 55-gallon drums have been filled with rocks and concrete to be used as anchors for floating docks or used as floats – and EPA and DEQ concluded the drums they’ve found are likely part of that history.

The EPA-DEQ investigation found a total of 74 drums in the investigation area on the south side of Wallowa Lake. All 74 drums had holes and contained lake water. EPA’s contractors removed all drums that appeared underwater to be intact or had a label indicating it may have previously contained a hazardous substance, a total of five drums:

One drum labeled “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T”; One drum labeled “Inspected”; One drum labeled “Hosp”; Two drums that did not have labels but appeared underwater to be intact. After further investigation on land, EPA concluded these drums were not intact.

EPA and DEQ determined the remaining non-intact drums found at the bottom of Wallowa Lake are likely filled with lake water and do not pose an imminent risk to people or wildlife.

Despite finding all drums empty and filled with lake water, EPA and DEQ took multiple samples of water and sediment to test for “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T” as an extra precaution. 15 samples of lake water and eight samples of sediment from the lake bottom were collected. Analysis by EPA Method 8151A indicated no chlorinated herbicides were present in any of the samples.

The 15 lake water samples included 11 samples of surface water, three samples from the City of Joseph’s drinking water plant, and one sample of water from inside the drum that had the herbicide label.

Federal and state agencies will continue to assess the information and data collected during the investigation and will determine appropriate next steps for the area. That work could include additional investigation, historical review and assessment, and possible additional actions including continued sampling of water and sediment.

EPA and DEQ worked in collaboration with the City of Joseph, Wallowa Lake State Park, Oregon Department of State Lands, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon State Marine Board, Wallowa County Sheriff’s Office, Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. INFO MEETING:


A public information meeting was held Tuesday, June 25, 6-8 p.m. at the Joseph Community Center, 102 E. First St., Joseph, OR 97846.

Find current updates at this link

General Site Information
Site: Wallowa Lake Drum (ECSI Site ID: 6320) CERCLIS (EPA) Id
Project Manager: James Collins Investigative Status:Contamination Suspected
PM Phone: NPL(National Priority Listing):No
Address: 72115 Marina Lane Is this site an Orphan?Yes
Joseph, 97846 Is this site a brownfield?No
County: WALLOWA Action Underway or Needed: ORPHAN SITE
Region: Eastern Region Click for more details ...  
Site Documents
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File NameCategory File Size MB Document Date Upload Date
6320-WallowaLakeDrum-Site-OrphanDeclaration-6-2019.pdf Memos 3.0242 6/11/2019 6/12/2019
L1109423-Joseph drinking water plant 061419.pdf Reports 1.7177 6/14/2019 7/1/2019
L1109691-Wallowa Lake surface water 061319.pdf Reports 2.4996 6/13/2019 7/1/2019
L1110000-Joseph water plant raw water 061219.pdf Reports 1.2551 6/12/2019 7/1/2019
L1109940-sediment surface water drum water.pdf Reports 3.2033 6/26/2019 7/1/2019
L1110913-Wallowa Lake surface water 061719.pdf Reports 1.7019 6/17/2019 7/1/2019
Site Links
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Wallowa Lake Drums Cleanup - EPA EPA response webpage
DEQ Public Notice Info meeting public notice
Oregon Newsroom - DEQ Current updates about the project
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Department of Environmental Quality
700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600 Portland, OR 97232
Hours: Mon-Fri, 8 a.m.-5 p.m

Email: | Phone: 503-229-5696 | Fax: 503-229-6124

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