Eastern Oregon CBOs and residents urge authorities to address groundwater contamination

Photo: 4/23/2024 - Ana Elisa Wilson, Healthy Communities and Environment Co-Manager at NCAP, was a part of the conversation with Gov. Kotek and other State officials and representatives of different local CBOs.


(By Tommy Díaz, Healthy People & Communities Program Manager)

Boardman, OR, March 2024 - With the mission of addressing Eastern Oregon’s long standing groundwater contamination problem, State and Federal officials met a month ago with regional community based organizations and community members for roundtable discussions. For Governor Tina Kotek and Casey Sixkiller, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this meeting was also intended to follow up on this problem since it was declared an emergency in 2022.


The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides’ (NCAP) Equity, Healthy Communities & Environment Specialist Ana Elisa Wilson was the organization’s representative during this meeting, where different social advocacy groups attended. Zaira Sanchez, from Oregon Rural Action urged the authorities to take action: “People are scared”.


The frustration expressed by attendees is due to this problem being first brought to the State’s attention in the 1990s. Thirty years later, local voices still claim little has been done to solve the issue.


In the time since this was declared an emergency, Morrow County Health Department, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and several CBOs have partnered in testing residential well water, distributing drinking water and installing water treatment systems. However, for some parties this issue needs to be handled more seriously.


“We need to treat this as an emergency, the emergency that it is, and that begins with making sure everyone is aware of the public health risk”, stated Kristin Anderson Ostrom, Oregon Rural Action’s Executive Director.


Organizations expressed the need to know what the course of action will be moving forward. Marisa Mendoza, from Euvalcree, urged the solutions to be beyond water deliveries, stating that “for now, we’re putting a band-aid on the problem”.


Authorities recognized the severity of this situation and the pressing need to lean into the strategic partnerships that are taking steps to address it. “The knowledge that you bring, the networks that you have access to, is just mission-critical to moving this work forward”, said Sixkiller. 


Ana Elisa Wilson shared details about NCAP’s radio show, ”Raíces Resilientes: Voces del Campo”, a project that has dedicated time and resources to disseminating information to community members from Morrow and Umatilla counties relating to the high nitrate content in wells. Listeners have called into the program to ask about advances in water testing, receiving bottled and delivered water, and testing water. Details about the support from the Health Department in Morrow and interviews are also broadcast during this program.


Governor Kotek expressed her gratitude for such an important collaboration and for the support that this and other programs provide the community in the Eastern Oregon counties.


Raíces Resilientes is hosted by Ana Elisa and NCAP’s Healthy People & Communities Program Manager, Tommy Díaz completely in Spanish. It is meant to be a space for conversation and debate on topics like pesticide awareness, climate crisis and community health. Every Tuesday at noon and on Radio La Ley 96.1FM, NCAP hosts guests from partner organizations and community members with similar programs that serve the Latinx community


NCAP continues to serve Latinx communities through this project along with partners like Doulas Latinas International (DLI), Euvalcree, Oregon Rural Action and Radio La Ley 96.1FM; with support from Oregon Health Authority and Morrow County Department of Health.


For more information on how to support this and other NCAP community programs go to www.pesticide.org/donate_now.


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  • Alisa Howell-Smith
    published this page in BLOG 2024-05-26 18:43:36 -0700