Protect Human Health From Harmful Nitrate Pollution

Target: Chris Hladick, Regional Administrator for the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Urge the EPA to take necessary action to reduce dangerous nitrate levels in drinking water in Eastern Oregon.

The EPA is failing to address dangerously high levels of nitrate in drinking water in Eastern Oregon. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high nitrate levels in drinking water can cause a variety of health problems, including increased risk of birth defects, “blue-baby syndrome” and cancer. In response, eight state and national health and environmental groups, including Columbia Riverkeeper, Food and Water Watch and Center for Food Safety, filed a Safe Drinking Water Act petition demanding that the EPA take action. The petition states that the nitrate levels show “an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of the residents of the Lower Umatilla Basin in Oregon.”

The groundwater contamination is directly associated with the high number of mega-dairies in the area using confined animal feeding operations (CAFOS) and irrigated agriculture with manure. The Food and Water Watch found that the 10 dairies in the Lower Umatilla Basin produce around 4.3 billion pounds of nitrogen rich manure per year. Oregon has a state trigger level that designates seven milligrams of nitrate per liter of groundwater as potentially harmful and 10 milligrams per liter as the maximum amount allowed. According to the Department of Environmental Quality, this area has routinely exceeded the state and federal trigger warnings for concentration of nitrate since tested in 1990.

The Lower Umatilla Water Basin is associated with the controversial Lost Valley Farm that was shut down last year after incurring hundreds of environmental violations associated with groundwater contamination. Easterday Farms, a Washington State-based dairy farm, is applying to re-open the dairy that will be allowed to house a total of 179,107 cattle. The use of CAFOS and irrigation with manure dominate American industrial agriculture, and therefore groundwater contamination through high nitrate concentration persists across the country. Urge the EPA to protect the health of Eastern Oregon residents by addressing groundwater contamination and limiting industrial agriculture.


Dear Mr. Hladick,

In accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act petition, I urge you to, at the very least, provide a safe source of alternate drinking water to affected communities until nitrate levels decrease, initiate further monitoring of water quality and diagnosis of the specific factors causing contamination, and apply the necessary resources to restore the groundwater to a safe condition by ensuring that nitrate levels will remain below the state trigger level. The Local Action Plan that was adopted in 1997 and revised in 2019, which encourages voluntary action to reduce nitrate levels in drinking water, has been unsuccessful at implementing tangible change. The extent of the problem requires that you abandon voluntary action and implement emergency action to protect residents in Eastern Oregon. Emergency action requires that you work to halt the opening of any new dairies or feedlots in the area, including Easterday Farms.

We demand that the necessary action be taken to reduce dangerous nitrate levels in drinking water to protect the residents of the Lower Umatilla Water Basin and the integrity of the unique biome that exists in the soil.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Friends of Family Farmers

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One Comment

  1. If you are about animals go Vegan. (Plant base)

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