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Reclamation settles pollution lawsuit


An environmental group that sued to force changes at Grand Coulee Dam says it has reached a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Columbia Riverkeeper announced last week that the Bureau had agreed to investigate the possibility of replacing petroleum oil-based lubricants with “eco-friendly lubricants” or switch to using non-lubricated equipment in places where those lubricants touch the water.

The settlement is based on a similar outcome in 2014 when the group settled a suit against the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That agency has since been testing the alternatives for use in eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Those test results may be transferable to some equipment at Grand Coulee.

“For the first time in its long history, Grand Coulee Dam must reduce toxic pollution,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “People rely on the Columbia for clean water and strong salmon runs. Today’s settlement ensures the federal government does its part keep toxic pollution out of the Columbia.”

Reclamation does not comment on lawsuits.

Under the settlement of the suit, brought in June under the Clean Water Act, Reclamation has 18 months to complete its own assessment of whether the changes can be made. And the agency must apply to the Environmental Protection Agency for an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit within 10 months. That application, essentially a request to be allowed to pollute the river, will require the agency to reduce pollution to get the permit. Reclamation has to keep Riverkeeper updated every year with its progress on getting the permit.

Reclamation also agreed to pay Riverkeeper $33,875 in the settlement.

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