Today’s presentation focused on how Oregon communities are regulated so our rivers are safe for fish, swimming and drinking water supplies.

Presented by Southtowne member Walt Meyer.

Walt has worked as an environmental engineer for 45 years, mostly in Oregon working with communities to provide safe drinking water and to treat their wastewater. He is a commissioner with the Eugene Springfield Wastewater Management Commission which is responsible for wastewater treatment in our community.

Highlights from Walt’s presentation:

  • There is a legal framework for protecting water in Oregon.
  • In the 60s, the water quality program was established to come up with beneficial uses for every water body including fisheries.
  • Fish and aquatic life tends to be the one benefit that affects our laws and regulations.
  • An example of that is dissolved oxygen criteria. Fish eggs have to have a fairly high level of oxygen in order to survive.
  • Temperature affects this and we have seen mass fish kills because oxygen levels drop and cannot support fisheries.
  • The Willamette River used to be highly polluted by municipalities and industry and fish could not survive. Because of that, people demonstrated and demanded that the legislature take steps to improve the Willamette River.
    The clean water act was passed in 1972 which included provisions to create a waste water treatment plant in every part of Oregon.
  • In Eugene, the treatment plants use a process for purifying even dissolved materials out of the water. This process ends up producing methane that we use to generate electricity.
  • Farmers and huge farms of poplar trees surrounding the city use the “leftover” materials as a source of fertilization.
  • Temperature is the biggest problem that environmentalists are trying to control and it gets worse each year. They have been looking at many alternatives to help with this problem and “temperature trading” has been chosen as a natural and less costly way to influence the problem. Click here to learn more.
  • Future challenges include more stringent toxicity requirements and new pollutants.
  • Toxicity is related to fish consumption. The fish consumption rate is 175 grams per day which means toxicity requirements have to get more and more stringent.
  • Pollutants include mercury, Bis 2-ethylhexyl phthalates (a plastic by-product), nutrients, temperature, and human health products like drugs (DO NOT FLUSH YOUR MEDICATIONS!)
  • At any given time, if you test river water you will find traces of all kinds of medications like Viagra.
  • Protecting our Rivers and Lakes will be a LONG Term Endeavor.