Emergency Board to receive $800K ask to help Boardman resident with water crisis

August 24, 2022
Emergency Board to receive $800K ask to help Boardman resident with water crisis

BOARDMAN — Boardman residents needing better water filters and more well testing due to nitrate contamination could get state help this fall.

The Oregon Health Authority plans to ask the Legislature’s Emergency Board in September for $800,000 to help address the water crisis in northern Morrow County.

Morrow County Commissioner Jim Doherty, however, sought a bigger contribution from the state.

Doherty on Aug. 11 sent a letter to Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, to ask the governor and Emergency Board for $4 million in the Oregon Health Authority or Oregon Department of Environmental Quality budgets to “implement an in-depth and culturally relevant community outreach, education and communications strategy to address immediate, short term and ongoing public health efforts in the Lower Columbia Basin as a result of high and extremely high nitrate levels in domestic wells.”

Doherty said since he made that request, Smith reported Gov. Kate Brown requested $800,000 for well water monitoring and better filters.

The need for better filters

Erica Heartquist, communication officer for the health authority’s public health division, explained Morrow County and its partners have distributed filters that attach to a home drinking water tap in the home that don’t filter out enough nitrates.

“Post-installation testing of several systems by Morrow County found that all systems reduced nitrates, but some did not reduce levels below the Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level of 10 milligrams per liter of water,” according to Heartquist. “Such systems may also reduce other common domestic well water contaminants, such as bacteria and lead. OHA’s request to the legislative Emergency Board will be for point-of-use water filtration systems that are specifically certified to reduce nitrates to levels at or below 10 mg/l.”

The Oregon Legislature convenes Sept. 21-23 for legislative days. Heartquist said the health authority expects the Human Services Subcommittee of the Joint Emergency Board to consider the request on Sept. 21. If the subcommittee gives the OK, it goes before the full Emergency Board for consideration Sept. 23.

Doherty said most of the filters the county has installed are doing the job, with more than 90% of homes testing at below 10 mg/l two weeks after installation. The kinds of filters the state is looking at buying cost $1,500-$1,800 each, he said, and he has some concerns if the filters can get to a stricter level of milligrams per liter requirement in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area in Morrow and Umatilla counties.

Oregon Health Authority has estimated there are approximately 4,500 domestic wells in the area serving about 12,000 household members.-Phil Wright

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