Army Corps Reports Large Oil Spill Into Columbia River From Bonneville Dam, Adding Mounting Pressure on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to Regulate Oil Pollution from Federal Dams
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2020 (Bonneville, WA)—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) reports that Bonneville Dam released approximately 70 to 100 gallons of turbine oil into the Columbia River between July 6 and July 14, 2020. The Army Corps shut down a turbine main unit, the suspected sources of the oil spill, and an investigation is ongoing. The Army Corps reported the spill to Columbia Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization, as required by a 2014 court settlement about similar oil spills from Columbia and Snake river dams.
“Oil spills from dams must stop. Shockingly, the Army Corps faces no penalties for fouling the Columbia River with toxic oil,” states Lauren Goldberg, Legal and Program Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—which has the authority to hold the Corps accountable—has ignored toxic oil pollution from federal dams for decades. It’s time to stop playing politics and protect clean water.”
In 2014, Columbia Riverkeeper settled a lawsuit against the Army Corps to stop oil pollution from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers, including Bonneville, John Day, The Dalles, and McNary, Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite. The settlement required the Army Corps to apply for water pollution permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the settlement, the Army Corps also agreed to study the use of non-toxic oils and implement an Oil Accountability Program to track oil spills. If EPA issues pollution permits as required by the Clean Water Act, The permits would require the Army Corps to monitor and reduce oil and other water pollution from the dams.
“Toxic pollution threatens people, fish, and wildlife that rely on clean water. The Bonneville Dam oil spill, and many others, demonstrate the Army Corps must switch to non-toxic oils and protect salmon and people that rely on clean water. And this requires EPA to do its job and control pollution from federal dams,” states Goldberg.
Oil spills occur on a routine basis at Columbia and Snake river dams, including a series of oil spills at Lower Monumental Dam in 2017 that spilled over 1,600 gallons of oil into the Snake River. In 2012 the Army Corps reported discharging over 1,500 gallons of PCB-laden transformer oil at the Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River. According to the EPA, PCBs cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, and endocrine system. The oil from the Ice Harbor spill contained PCBs at levels 14,000,000% greater than state and federal chronic water quality standards.
Lauren Goldberg, Columbia Riverkeeper, 541.965.0985, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Columbia Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore the water quality of the Columbia River and all life connected to it, from the headwaters to the Pacific Ocean. Representing over 16,000 members and supporters, Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore a Columbia River where people can safely eat the fish they catch and where children can swim without fear of toxic exposure. Columbia Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest-growing environmental movement, uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations worldwide. For more information, go to columbiariverkeeper.org.