Department of Ecology News Release - April 9, 2012
YAKIMA – Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) Director Ted Sturdevant has announced the appointment of members and alternatives to serve on an advisory board for the newly formed Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area (GWMA).
In a letter to appointees, Sturdevant said the locally led effort has the great potential to address a long-term problem of nitrate contamination that threatens human health and the vitality of the lower Yakima Valley.
“Advisory committee members will help chart the direction and actions of the groundwater program and have a chance to contribute to its ultimate success,” Sturdevant said. “We’re looking forward to this board working collaboratively with the county and agencies to implement strategies to protect drinking water and prevent further contamination to soil and groundwater.”
Advisory members (listed below) include citizen and environmental representatives, agricultural scientists, conservationists, farm and irrigated agriculture interests, the Yakama Nation, local, state and federal health, ecology and geologic representatives.
Yakima County as the lead agency will conduct the first organizational meeting of the committee, to be scheduled later this spring.
"We fully support the committee and its mission,” said County Commissioner Rand Elliott. “We look forward to its recommendations for reducing nitrates in Lower Valley groundwater."
In November, Sturdevant authorized Yakima County to develop a groundwater management program to tackle elevated nitrates in groundwater and drinking water in the lower Yakima Valley. In addition, Ecology has pledged approximately $300,000 in start-up funding for the Lower Valley GWMA.
In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found 21 percent of 337 wells sampled for nitrate were at levels greater than federal drinking water standards. Infants under six months of age, pregnant women, and other vulnerable populations may suffer ill health affects due to nitrate contaminated water.
A public hearing on the proposal was held in August in Sunnyside to gather input on Yakima County’s proposed actions to reduce nitrate contamination in an area from Union Gap to Benton City, not including the Yakama Reservation. This area comprises approximately 512 square miles.
Yakima County is a highly developed agricultural basin where land-application of nitrogen rich fertilizers, manure and leaking septic systems may be contributing to the elevated nitrate problem. The proposal to create a management area to address the pollution resulted from Yakima County’s collaboration with EPA, the state departments of Ecology, Agriculture and Health.
More information on this effort is available online on Ecology's Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Quality web page. A copy of the GWMA proposal may be found at the Yakima County web site.
Chapter 173-100 of the Washington Administrative Code provides criteria and procedures for designating geographic areas and developing programs where groundwater quality is threatened or degraded as a result of land use activities.
Lower Yakima Valley Advisory Committee Members and Alternates:
Joye Redfield-Wilder, Ecology Communications Manager, 509-575-2610; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Freund, Yakima County Public Services Public Information Officer, 509-574-2300; email@example.com
For more information:
Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Quality (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/grndwtr/LowerYak-gw.html)
Yakima County Nitrate Program (http://www.yakimacounty.us/NitrateProgram)
Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.html.