State Senator Arnie Roblan and State Representative David Gomberg pledged Friday to get to the bottom of why the Siletz River, in the opinion of many locals, is slowly deteriorating due to heavy logging, sewer plant bio-solid deposits on lands along the river, and what appears to be a disconnect between the state Department of Environmental Equality and the Siletz River itself.
A basic barometer on the Siletz indicates that its fisheries are threatened and the problem isn’t just about the health of the Siletz River, but also the quality of the water that the cities of Siletz, Newport and Seal Rock are collecting and providing for their residents. Although all three say their water is perfectly safe to drink and cook with.
A lot of testimony centered around the deposits of bio-solids collected by the cities of Lincoln City and and others, sprayed on lands that run off into the Siletz River. Some say the deposits are harmful, some say they’re not. Some say river monitoring is adequate – some say it’s anything but.
Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont offered suggestions that permits to apply bio-solids must be verified. Belmont said the DEQ must ensure that the permits are current. Belmont said such land applications should be made away from the river itself. He said well waters should be sampled on a regular basis and evaluated for pollutants. And that land applications of bio-solids are kept away from the rivers’ edge. Belmont also recommended consolidating the sludge produced by the county’s various communities in hopes that it all could be consolidated in a useful way to be disposed of. He also suggested there are better technologies “out there” that the county and its cities might explore.
A lot more than that was said, but much of it appeared to be opinion rather than derived from scientific analysis. Needless to say, the issues are far from settled. One citizen suggested that the Oregon DEQ is among the lowest of the lower rungs of environmental protection agencies among the 50 states which they contend causes these kinds of problems that should easily solved at the local level. But that creates a source of confusion as to who is in charge of what, and it just adds to the confusion.
Other major points derived from the discussion included:
* More testing for toxins
* More testing for plastics and pharmaceuticals
* Funding for more regulatory changes
* More county, city and local district controls
* Local reimbursement for changing bio-solids disposal procedures
* Studies on Siletz River and Siletz Bay water quality
* Target and bring up to date expired disposal permits
* Impacts on wildlife
* Analyze rate of bio-solid dumping
* Outline truck movements enroute to dumping locations
This issue will be bubbling for quite a while.