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:

Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington showing water, mountain, and industry with a small kayaker in the background.
$25 Million
September 12, 2023

West Coast Port to spend over $25 million to reduce water pollution, pay penalty in legal settlement with Columbia Riverkeeper.

Chief Joseph Dam
Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph Dams to Reduce Pollution
May 23, 2023

After a decade of litigation by Columbia Riverkeeper, all ten federally-owned dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake river finally have Clean Water Act permits.

Senior Attorney, Miles Johnson, flying over McNary Dam. Aerial support from Lighthawk
EPA Issues Permits
December 15, 2022

Permits to curb oil and heat pollution from Columbia River dams.

$195,000 Fine
December 2, 2022

Wanpaum and Priest Rapids dams to reduce toxic pollution.

$650,000 Fine
August 15, 2022

Port of Longview agrees to pay $650,000 in fines and remediate pollution in the Columbia River.

Lewis & Clark Bridge at Longview
$715,000 Fine
June 21, 2022

Last unpermitted grain terminal in Washington required to obtain clean water act permit.

trees, by paloma ayala
May 9, 2022

Timber giant agrees to reduce the amount of pollution that flows off the 260-acre facility and into the Columbia River. 

Dam on the lower snake river, OR
Dam Pollution
November 4, 2021

Washington State uploads authority to regulation dam heat pollution. 

$3 Million Fine
October 6, 2021

Landmark pollution lawsuit against Clark County leads to win for clean water.

Construction of Ice Harbor Ice Harbor Lock and Dam on the Lower Snake River in 1960. Concerns about the dam’s negative impact on salmon and steelhead delayed completion by 15 years. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Corps Must Control Pollution
September 30, 2021

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally set limits on oil and hot water pollution from the four Lower Snake River dams. 

Facilities in Oregon Covered by a 1200-Z Industrial Stormwater Permit
Lawsuit Spurs Stricter Toxic Limits
April 9, 2021

Oregon now has one of the nation’s most protective stormwater permits for industrial sites.

Dams like this one on the Snake River create slow moving water that heats up in the summer.
Army Corps Must Cool Dams
June 29, 2021

New restrictions on hot water pollution from Columbia and Lower Snake River dams and reservoirs operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps). 

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.