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NW Fishletter #389, January 7, 2019

[8] Columbia Riverkeeper Sues Douglas County PUD Over Columbia River Oil Leaks

Columbia Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit against Douglas County PUD Dec. 11, alleging the discharge of pollutants--including oils, greases and other lubricants--at Wells Dam require a water pollution permit under the Clean Water Act.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lawsuit asks the court to find that the PUD violated, and continues to violate, the Clean Water Act, and seeks an injunction preventing Douglas from continuing to discharge pollutants.

The PUD declined to comment, and has not yet filed an official reply to the claims.

Columbia Riverkeeper announced in September that it intended to sue not only Douglas, but also Chelan and Grant county PUDs for failing to get pollution permits that would account for leaking oil and other lubricants at their mid-Columbia River dams.

Lauren Goldberg, the group's legal and program director, told NW Fishletter that cases against Chelan and Grant PUDs have not been filed, but are still pending.

According to Riverkeeper, Douglas reported a hydraulic line failure in 2014 that resulted in a 2,000-gallon leak of hydraulic oil, including five gallons that reached the Columbia River. It is one of many leaks described in the lawsuit.

"Oil pollution from dams must stop," Riverkeeper's executive director Brett VandenHeuvel said in a news release. "People rely on clean water and healthy salmon runs. It's past time for the Douglas County PUD to protect clean water in the Columbia River."

Goldberg said that without a permit, the PUDs can fail to monitor or report pollution, preventing the public from understanding the extent of the problem, which has included large leaks as well as smaller but chronic leaks.

"It's not a green light to pollute," she said. "It restricts the amount and the type of pollutant, and requires the company or PUD to monitor how much pollution and what types they're releasing into the river."

She said prior lawsuits filed by Columbia Riverkeeper against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation resulted in agreements by those agencies to obtain pollution discharge permits for nine Columbia and Snake river dams. Both agencies have also completed studies and taken steps to replace conventional oils with less harmful ones, she said. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035

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