Stopping Pollution

Columbia Riverkeeper fights for clean water. We take polluters to court when the government turns its back on illegal pollution. We advocate for stronger laws to reduce toxic pollution in fish and drinking water. And we push government agencies to take action for clean water.

Everyone deserves to eat locally caught fish without fear of toxic pollution.

The Problem

The Columbia River, and the communities that depend on it, face serious threats from toxic pollution. Every day, thousands of pipes discharge toxic pollution from industry, cities, and dirty stormwater runoff. Pesticides and heavy metals enter the river from diffuse sources, such as agricultural runoff and air deposition. 
Here's a snapshot of why this matters. Visit a popular fishing spot like the Columbia River Slough in North Portland. On a sunny day, you'll likely to find dozens of people reeling in fish destined for the dinner table. In addition to being free, carp, catfish, and other resident fish have cultural value to many people with eastern European and Asian heritage. Unfortunately, industrial pollution dumped into the Columbia has a tragic impact on this food source: off-the-charts levels of toxic pollution including mercury and cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). 

How We Stop Pollution


Riverkeeper cracks down on illegal pollution by enforcing the Clean Water Act.
In recent years, Riverkeeper brought legal actions against more than 50 facilities that discharged illegal pollution. Our lawsuits deliver results; we stop 50,000 pounds of toxic pollution per year. 


State and federal decisionmakers often buckle under pressure from corporations. That’s where we step in. Riverkeeper challenges government decisions that ignore the law and the public’s right to clean water.


Riverkeeper works for accurate, protective toxic pollution limits—called water quality standards—to reduce cancer-causing pollution in the Columbia. Water quality standards set limits on how much pollution is allowed in a river—that’s important. While it’s not glamorous to push state agencies to adopt better pollution limits, that’s what we do!


We provide cleanup technical and legal assistance on complicated cleanups, like Hanford nuclear waste and shuttered aluminum smelters. We’ve helped block the government from shipping more nuclear and chemical waste to Hanford. And we lead powerful paddle trips down the Hanford Reach of the Columbia. Check out our video: "Hanford: A Race Against Time."


Riverkeeper supports studies to understand how pollution impacts the Columbia’s fish and wildlife. By sharing our water quality data with government agencies, partnering with academic institutions, and hosting science education events, help everyone better understand the Columbia.


Thousands of facilities in Oregon and Washington hold permits to discharge pollution into the Columbia River. Our legal team evaluates permits and advocates for tougher pollution limits.


Your membership protects and restores the mighty Columbia River now and for future generations.

Case Study

Science on unregulated pollution
Partnering with scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, Riverkeeper participated in a study on the distribution of the commonly prescribed pharmaceutical, metformin, on the Columbia River.