DEQ Announces Priority Persistent Pollutant List

By Oregon Department of Environmental Quality,

After months of public input and technical review, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced today an official list of persistent, surface water  pollutants that pose a potential threat to the state’s environment and residents. The list identifies 118 toxic pollutants that come from a wide variety of sources and have a documented effect on human health, wildlife or aquatic species.

The final list is available on the DEQ Web page (under “Documents to Download,” in right-hand column). It contains two types of toxic pollutants: substances that either persist in water environments or accumulate in the tissues of people, wildlife or plants; and chemicals that have been banned or restricted for years but remain in sediment and tissue samples at detectable levels.

Oregon is the first state in the nation to develop such a comprehensive list of toxic pollutants related to surface waters, combined with a data-driven reduction strategy to protect human health and the environment. The list will help the state identify sources of pollutants and develop ways to reduce their amounts in Oregon’s waters. The list also is part of DEQ’s agency-wide toxics reduction strategy, which strives to achieve similar reduction goals across air and land. A draft of DEQ’s overall strategy to identify and reduce toxic pollutants in the environment will be available for public review in spring 2010.

The priority persistent pollutant list includes both well-studied pollutants that people have worked to reduce, such as mercury, PCBs and DDT, and pollutants of emerging concern, such as ingredients in certain personal care products, for which specific data are lacking but where available information indicates their potential to cause harm.

Next steps

·         DEQ will identify sources of the pollutants and ways to reduce the amounts in Oregon waters.

·         DEQ will host a public workshop on Nov. 17 in northeast Portland at the Ambridge Event Center to further explore and document opportunities to reduce toxic pollutants (details at

·         DEQ will develop pollutant “trigger levels” at which pollution reduction would be recommended. New rules outlining these trigger levels will be developed this winter, with opportunity for public comment before being adopted by the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission.

·         DEQ will detail its findings on sources of persistent pollutants and reduction opportunities in a report due to the Legislature on June 1, 2010.

·         Oregon’s 52 largest municipal wastewater treatment plants will develop toxic reduction and targeted pollution prevention plans by July 2011 to reduce persistent pollutants occurring in their effluent at levels above trigger levels set by the new rules.

·         Acknowledging that municipal sewer systems aren’t the original source of these pollutants, local governments will conduct outreach work with industries, agricultural operations, commercial businesses and residents to reduce the amounts of toxic pollutants dumped into the sewer system.


The 2007 Oregon Legislature directed DEQ to compile the priority persistent pollutant list to help guide the agency’s pollution prevention efforts. The final list is the result of extensive public input and scientific review. DEQ convened a workgroup of seven scientific experts in such fields as toxicology and hydrology. A statewide public outreach effort yielded dozens of comments on a draft list. DEQ also coordinated its efforts extensively with state and federal agencies, tribal nations, municipal organizations, environmental groups and industry representatives.

Municipal wastewater treatment plants, in particular, are contributing to this effort by helping to fund the initial project work.


Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Board of Trustees, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation: “Oregon DEQ has brought together expert scientists to determine when toxic reduction plans are needed. We are pleased that DEQ is ensuring that this process is based on sound science. Municipalities should also be commended for committing to reduce the toxic chemicals coming from wastewater treatment plants. They are showing true leadership and helping Oregon to set a national example for more effectively protecting our waters and our people.”

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