Wallowa Lake cleanup Meeting

EPA, DEQ, and other agencies will host a community meeting to present information and discuss the herbicide barrels recently found by divers in Wallowa Lake.

The EPA and Oregon DEQ will host a community meeting about the barrels labeled 2,4-d and 2,4,-T found in Wallowa Lake by a dive team. The meeting will be at the Joseph Community Center, Tuesday, June 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. Representatives from the EPA, DEQ, Oregon Health Authority, City of Joseph, Wallowa Lake State Park, Oregon Department of State Lands, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be available to provide information about activities and answer questions.

In August 2018, a community scuba dive group discovered approximately 25 55-gallon and 12 100-gallon drums at the bottom of Wallowa Lake. The drums have markings indicating they once held or currently hold a mixture of the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. In the past, these two chemicals were combined to produce the herbicide known as Agent Orange. While the 55-gallon drums appear to be rusted out, several of the 100-gallon drums appear to be intact, and their contents are unknown. EPA and DEQ have not been able to determine how long the drums have been in the lake, but they appear to have been there for years.

Initial water sampling has not detected 2,4-D in the drinking water sourced from the lake.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are working to remove the drums in summer 2019 in consultation with the City of Joseph, Wallowa Lake State Park, Oregon Department of State Lands, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon State Marine Board, Nez Perce Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

Fifty-five-gallon drums have been found at the lake bottom for years, a remnant of the days when empty drums were used extensively to float and anchor docks. It was common practice for people to fill the drums with water, rock or cement and anchor the drums with rope to floating docks. But the 100-gallon size and chemical markings on the recently found drums are unusual. For this reason, government agencies are taking extra precautions to test the lake water and remove the drums to ensure the lake remains clean for people, fish and wildlife.

Joseph’s drinking water

Wallowa Lake is the primary drinking water source for the City of Joseph. No 2,4-D has ever been detected in drinking water samples, which have been collected regularly since 1985. As a precaution, DEQ and the City of Joseph will be taking water samples for analysis of both 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T at the drinking water intake twice a month until the drums are removed from the lake. The first such samples will be collected the week of June 10, 2019. In addition, the City of Joseph will perform additional testing of the city’s finished drinking water to ensure it does not contain 2,4-D or 2,4,5-T.

Swimming and fishing in the lake

DEQ is collecting and analyzing water samples near the drum site with the help of Oregon Parks and Recreation and Oregon Health Authority to ensure the water is safe for people to swim and

recreate. Wallowa Lake State Park staff will collect water samples from the boat dock and on the shoreline near the drum site twice a month until the drums are removed. DEQ’s lab will analyze the samples and send the results to OHA for review. These results will be shared with the public as quickly as possible.

Removing the drums

EPA is contracting a professional environmental cleanup dive team to safely remove the drums as soon as possible. EPA and the dive team will perform an initial dive assessment at the site in mid-June to inspect the drums, verify the information provided by the recreational dive group, and gather site information to prepare for the removal.

The removal will likely occur in summer or early fall 2019, but EPA and DEQ will be prepared to act earlier if the initial site assessment indicates there is an imminent risk of release from any of the drums, or if logistical challenges are overcome sooner than expected.

EPA and DEQ will closely coordinate removal operations with environmental and cultural resource stakeholders to minimize the impact to Wallowa Lake’s fish and its cultural and archaeological resources.

More information

Attend an information meeting Tuesday, June 25, 6-8 p.m. at the Joseph Community Center, 102 E. First St., Joseph, OR 97846.

Find more information about the cleanup site at https://go.usa.gov/xmtA3 or contact Laura Gleim at 541-633-2030.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.