Enforce the Law

Thousands of pipes release pollution into the Columbia.

The problem

The Columbia River basin, an area the size of France, accumulates pollution from industry, wastewater treatment plants, and runoff from agricultural lands, logging, industrial sites, and city streets. As a result, the Columbia River is severely degraded by pollution. Toxic pollution threatens the health of people that eat local fish and jeopardizes the public’s right to eat fish caught locally. Rising water temperatures also threaten the health of salmon and other aquatic life that rely on cool water for survival. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated the Columbia River Basin a Critical Large Aquatic Ecosystem because toxic contamination and other pollution is so severe. EPA’s in-depth report on toxic pollution in the Columbia, the Columbia River Basin: State of River Report for Toxics, concluded that harmful pollutants are moving up the food chain, impacting humans, fish, and wildlife.  

How we engage

Columbia Riverkeeper cracks down on illegal pollution by enforcing the Clean Water Act. Our top priority: Stop the pollution. Our second goal: Deter industry from violating the law in the first place. How? Our settlements require the offending company to pay a penalty. As part of the lawsuit settlement, the penalty funds support projects by other organizations that benefit water quality. In the last decade, penalties from Riverkeeper’s Clean Water Act lawsuits supported dozens of important projects to protect and restore healthy rivers.

Riverkeeper also challenges government decisions that allow more toxic pollution in our rivers and watchdogs permits-to-pollute, making the case for state and federal agencies to ratchet back pollution limits or deny permits to pollute.

Success Stories:

Salmon leaping over Lyle Falls, photo by Peter Marbach
$150,000 Fine
January 8, 2020

Food Processing Company Agrees to Comply with Law.

Map of the Lower Snake River dams
Temperature is Clean Water Act Pollution
December 20, 2019

EPA must protect Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead from dangerously warm river temperatures.

pollution pipe
$374,000 Fine
September 4, 2019

Metal Fabrication Company Agrees to Comply with Law.

Facilities in Oregon Covered by a 1200-Z Industrial Stormwater Permit
Legal Victory For Clean Water
August 20, 2018

With a new permit, the State of Oregon can keep thousands of pounds of toxic pollution out of our of rivers.

Columbia River, near the John Day Dam, photo credit Rick Bowmer, AP File
$650,000 Fine
April 18, 2017

Sandvik, an international company with $82 billion in sales, discharged high levels of toxic metals, fluoride, and ammonia into the Columbia River for years—until Riverkeeper sued.

Grand Coulee Dam, photo by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Stopping Oil Pollution from Dams
August 4, 2014

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.”


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