Case Study: Oil Spills from Dams

Columbia Riverkeeper works with people in dozens of communities—from rural to urban—who share the same goals: Protect the health of their families and the places they love. 


Case Study: Oil Spills from Dams

Grand Coulee Dam, photo by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Photo credit: Grand Coulee Dam U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

We got tired of receiving phone calls about another oil spill from large hydroelectric dams frequently spill oil into the Columbia. Oregon and Washington tried unsuccessfully for years to get dams including Bonneville, The Dalles, and Grand Coulee to clean up their acts. We learned that some of the oil contained cancer-causing PCBs. And then engineers explained that the dams leak oil all the time. Columbia Riverkeeper sued and forced eight large dams to reduce toxic oil pollution—a victory that the New York Times called “historic” and the Wall Street Journal called “groundbreaking.” The federal government agreed to ratchet back on pollution and switch to non-toxic, biodegradable oils where feasible.

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Columbia Riverkeeper Case Studies

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