Editorial: Mercury regs could put ag between rock, hard place

Streamside landowners could easily find themselves caught between the conflicting mandates of the various state and federal environmental agencies that hold sway over water and pollution issues.

Published on March 1, 2018 8:44AM


Oregon farmers are about to play a big role in controlling mercury pollution in the Willamette River Basin, but some say the government’s own rules about working around streams will make it difficult to comply with pollution requirements.

Oregon officials face a court-ordered deadline to update mercury pollution standards in the Willamette River Basin. Much of the mercury in the soil comes from emissions produced by coal-burning power plants and factories that drift across the Pacific Ocean from China.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality is setting that standard.

The Oregon Farm Bureau says industries that will be most impacted, and that includes agriculture, aren’t being given enough time to weigh in.

If mercury is in the soil, soil erosion into the waters of the Willamette Basin are sure to be seen as a target for pollution controls.

Farmers worry DEQ will take a heavy hand in requiring them to control erosion.

Eric Horning, a farmer near Corvallis, says farmers are constrained by regulations in what they can do to reduce streamside sedimentation. While the work itself might be easy and straightforward, the permitting from state and federal regulators is not.

Streamside landowners could easily find themselves caught between the conflicting mandates of the various state and federal environmental agencies that hold sway over water and pollution issues.

We can only hope that DEQ will keep such problems in mind when setting its own regulations, or find a way to facilitate the timely cooperation of the necessary agencies.



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