No matter where you are at this moment, you are in a watershed. When a drop of water hits the ground, if it is not absorbed by plants or allowed to soak into the soil, it will eventually make its way downhill into a river, bringing with it any pollutants it picks up along the way. -Oregon Environmental Council

In 1972 the Clean Water Act was established nation-wide to help make water ways all over the US clean. The main goal was simple, clean water by 1985. It proposed this idea would happen by regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulate quality standards for surface waters (any water that collects on the surface of the ground). Unfortunately, the act is a failed attempt to clean up our waterways. Not only has it failed in Oregon, but in rivers all over the US.

Sadly enough, every river in Oregon violates this Clean Water Act (mind you Oregon is the land of lush trees, recycling and composting at every corner, organics galore, and environmental friendly choices in many areas of the state). Below are Oregon’s major rivers and their alert labels provided by the Oregon Environmental Council.

Alert Levels

Red Alert: Columbia and Willamette: These rivers have serious water quality problems, including toxics that are dangerous to human and aquatic health.

Orange Alert: Malheur, Owyhee and Snake: These rivers have significant water quality problems, often including toxics and bacteria.

Yellow Alert: Deschutes, Grande Ronde, John Day, Rogue and Umpqua These rivers have some water quality problems, but they do not violate standards for toxics and they have some stretches that are in relatively good condition.

Green Alert: No major Oregon rivers: These rivers have good water quality and they do not violate Clean Water Act standards.

What is polluting Oregon rivers?

Among a long list of chemicals and disturbances in the rivers are these:

Fecal Coliform: Fecal coliform is a type of bacteria, including E. coli, which is found in the intestines of mammals. Its presence indicates that feces is in the water, so it is used as an indicator of pathogens dangerous to human health.  Most strains of E. coli do not cause serious illness, but when E. coli is detected it may indicate the presence of more harmful bacteria, such as salmonella or giardia.

Mercury: Mercury is a naturally occurring element that has many industrial commercial uses. However, it is highly toxic, persists for years in the environment and can accumulate to higher concentrations as it moves up the food chain. Mercury is a neurotoxin that can slow fetal and child development and cause irreversible deficits in brain function.

Dioxin: Dioxins are some of the most toxic and carcinogenic compounds known. In addition to causing cancer, they act like a hormone in the body, disrupting the endocrine system (the glands that produce hormones) and suppressing the immune system. Dioxins break down very slowly, so they tend to accumulate in aquatic life, from algae to fish.

Here are a few things you can do now:

There are ways you can contribute to clean rivers. We make decisions every day that affect our waters. When your spray your lawn with pesticides because you don’t like to weed, when you put bleach down the toilet because it cleans great, or when you improperly throw out your paint cans, perfumes, or unused prescription drugs, you are contributing to unclean waters in your city. The products you use affect the world.

The first thing you can do is find out whose watershed you live in, or if you live in Oregon you can find it here. Find out how clean your water is.

Choose better, safer, and plant-based products. Which can help prevent contamination of clean water sources. If you are curious how to switch to better products make sure to contact me for an advanced copy of  Switching Products with Samvid.

Have a chemical and pesticide free garden or yard, this prevents harmful substances from running into your water source.

Install a rain garden or rain barrel. The OEC states, “Rainwater harvesting reduces stress on surface waters and groundwater by providing an alternative water source for human uses, and it mitigates high urban runoff volumes.”

You can also help by keeping drugs out of the rivers by not flushing them down the toilet. Instead smash up used prescription drugs with an undesirable substance, like used coffee grounds, put them empty cans or sealable bags, then dispose of them in the trash.

If we want rivers to fish in, lakes to swim in, and waters to drink from, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” by using earth friendly products and methods.

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