Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD), reports that the Rocky Reach Dam spilled over 300 gallons of hydraulic oil into the Columbia River.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rocky Reach Dam Spills Over 300 Gallons of Oil into Columbia River
October 21, 2019 (Wenatchee, WA)—Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD), reports that the Rocky Reach Dam spilled over 300 gallons of hydraulic oil into the Columbia River. The PUD discovered the oil spill through an oil accountability program required under a Clean Water Act settlement agreement with non-profit Columbia Riverkeeper. Riverkeeper sued the PUD in 2019 for years of unlawful oil pollution.
“Hydroelectric dams like Rocky Reach routinely release oil to the Columbia and Snake rivers, threatening clean water that people and salmon rely on,” stated Lauren Goldberg, Legal and Program Director for Columbia Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper). “The latest oil spill is one of many reported by dam operators on the Columbia and Snake rivers. There’s a real urgency to address oil pollution from massive hydroelectric dams like Rocky Reach.”
According to the PUD’s reports to the Washington Department of Ecology, turbine Unit C3 spilled 208 gallons of oil into the Columbia River in June 2019, prompting the PUD to take the unit offline until September 2019. On October 2, 2019, the PUD discovered that between September and early October, Unit C3 leaked an additional 105 gallons of hydraulic oil into the Columbia.
The PUD reported the spill to Riverkeeper, as required by a 2019 settlement. Riverkeeper reached the settlement with the PUD in March 2019 to end uncontrolled toxic pollution from the Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams. Oil and other pollution from dams into the Columbia and Snake rivers, threatens fish, wildlife, and people that rely on locally-caught fish.
Background on Oil Spills from Columbia and Snake River Dams
Hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers routinely spill oil. Case in point: in 2017 the Lower Monumental Dam released over 1,600 gallons of oil into the Snake River during a series of oil spills. 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.
In 2014, Columbia Riverkeeper settled a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to stop oil pollution from eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The settlement required the Corps to apply for water pollution permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permits would require the Corps to monitor and reduce oil and other water pollution from the dams, but the Trump administration’s EPA refuses to issue the permits. Riverkeeper settled a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for oil pollution from Grand Coulee Dam.
As part of Riverkeeper’s settlements, the Corps and Bureau also agreed to study using non-toxic oils and implement an Oil Accountability Program to track oil spills. As a result, the Corps has started to use more non-toxic oils at dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.
In 2018, Riverkeeper initiated lawsuits to end uncontrolled toxic pollution from multiple PUD dams on the Columbia River, including the Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams.
- Settlement Agreement with Chelan County PUD.
- Lawsuit filed against the Douglas County and Grant County PUD for unpermitted discharges.
- Information on Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation related to oil spills at Grand Coulee Dam.
- Information on Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against the Army Corps related to oil spills at eight Columbia and Snake river dams.
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. Riverkeeper works with people in dozens of communities—rural and urban—with the same goals: protecting the health of their families and the places they love. Riverkeeper enforces environmental laws to stop illegal pollution, protects salmon habitat, and challenges harmful fossil fuel terminals. Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper organizations around the world.
Columbia Riverkeeper cracks down on illegal pollution by enforcing the Clean Water Act.