Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ Seeks Comments on Draft List Of Priority Persistent Pollutants Through March 27, 2009

This list, mandated by 2007 Legislature, identifies pollutants affecting human health, wildlife, aquatic habitat. The DEQ will hold information sessions statewide in March.

As part of the state’s continuing efforts to address toxic pollutants in the environment, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has released a draft list of priority persistent pollutants that have a documented affect on human health, wildlife and aquatic habitats. The draft list of pollutants, organized by chemical class as well as by degree of persistency in the environment, is available on DEQ’s Web site at http://www.deq.state.or.us/wq/SB737. A draft scientific report describing DEQ’s development of the list is available on the Web site as well.

DEQ compiled the list of 175 pollutants with the help of a science workgroup and is holding information sessions throughout the state to get comments on the list. Based on input and other information it receives, DEQ will revise the list over the next several months before finalizing it. It will then present the final list to the Oregon Legislature by June 1, 2009. By June 1, 2010, DEQ will submit to the Legislature a final report identifying sources of pollutants on the list and opportunities to reduce their discharge to water.

DEQ will use the list to help gain a better understanding of which pollutants to focus on as it examines ways to identify and reduce discharges of persistent pollutants that pose a threat to state waters. The 2007 Oregon Legislature, through passage of Senate Bill 737, directed DEQ to develop the list with the aid of “interested parties” in order to address toxics reduction statewide. DEQ has held monthly science workgroup meetings with toxics experts to narrow the list from a potential 2,100 pollutants to 175. DEQ expects to narrow down the list further after receiving additional comments from the scientific community, from sources such as municipal wastewater treatment facilities, and others.

“I’m very concerned, as most Oregonians are, about toxic pollutants in Oregon’s waterways,” said DEQ Director Dick Pedersen. “This is an incremental process, and we welcome comment on our progress so far. The final list will help us focus our efforts on pollutants that are likely to be in Oregon’s waters and present the most potential for harm.”

The draft list includes pesticides, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, flame retardants, PCBs and metals. Many of these pollutants are present in common consumer products. They are slow to break down in the environment and thus have a long-term impact on humans and wildlife that may ingest or absorb them. Many of the “personal care” toxic pollutants come from such commonly-used items as anti-bacterial hand soaps, insect repellents, shampoos and deodorants. Flame retardants used in the manufacture of electronic products can break down and leach into the environment. The list also includes several “legacy” persistent pollutants, such as DDT, that may now be banned but still linger in the environment years after they were used. These pollutants filter into rivers and streams through soil erosion, runoff from lawns, driveways and streets, and the simple act of flushing down the shower drain or toilet.

As part of Senate Bill 737, Oregon’s largest municipalities will develop plans to reduce toxics in wastewater treatment plant effluent and stormwater runoff. Those plans will include letting consumers know how to safely dispose of pharmaceuticals without flushing them down toilets, how to find alternatives to pesticides for yards and gardens, and other effective pollution prevention programs.

“The process DEQ developed to identify and prioritize this draft list was thorough and rigorous,” said David Stone, science workgroup chair and assistant professor of Oregon State University’s Department of Environmental Molecular Toxicology. “DEQ took great pains to document the decision process and the criteria used to rank each pollutant.”

Information sessions to be held

As a first step in narrowing the draft list of toxic pollutants, DEQ is holding information sessions throughout the state. DEQ will accept written and verbal comments at each session.

• North Bend, Tuesday, March 10, 5:30 to 8 p.m., North Bend Library, large meeting room, 1800 Sherman Avenue

• Klamath Falls, Wednesday, March 11, 5:30 to 8 p.m., Klamath County Courthouse, Commission Hearing Room, 305 Main Street

• Portland, Thursday, March 19, 5:30 to 8 p.m., DEQ Headquarters, 811 SW Sixth Ave., Room EQC-A (10th floor), at corner of SW Sixth Avenue and Yamhill Street. This meeting will also be accessible via conference call [call-in number: 877-214-5010, participant number 898168].

DEQ is accepting comments on the draft list of persistent, priority pollutants through 5 p.m. Friday, March 27. DEQ is particularly seeking comments based on scientific and technical information and views.

Comments may be mailed to Project Manager Cheryl Grabham, Oregon DEQ, 811 SW Sixth Avenue, Portland, OR 97204. They may also be e-mailed to p3@deq.state.or.us, or faxed to Cheryl Grabham at (503) 229-6037.

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