Global Agriculture

Rural Communities Still Awaiting Governor Kotek’s Response, OLCV & Center for Food Safety Join Oregon Rural Action’s Request

Silence from Governor’s Office Continues as Contamination Worsens, Thousands of Wells Remain Untested

14 June 2024, Boardman: Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has yet to respond to a letter sent last month by Oregon Rural Action (ORA) and community members affected by the ongoing drinking water contamination crisis in the Lower Umatilla Basin.

Despite numerous officials stating that the situation is an emergency, Governor Kotek has thus far failed to declare an emergency or deliver on the response she promised in May 2023.

After 34 years of waiting for the State of Oregon to take action, community members with contaminated wells await a response from Governor Kotek. Meanwhile, contamination continues to worsen in the Lower Umatilla Basin, and state agencies’ responses continue to fall short, leaving hundreds of families at risk of exposure.

“The silence speaks volumes,” said Kristin Anderson Ostrom, executive director of ORA. “Our rural communities cannot endlessly be put on the back burner while lives and health are at risk, but that’s exactly what happens in environmental justice communities. As we stated in the letter: ‘the political and economic interests of large-scale industrial agriculture cannot continue to undercut the need for urgent action to protect public health.'”

The letter asks the Governor to hold state agencies accountable for the poor response to the groundwater contamination emergency and rein in sources of pollution in rural Morrow and Umatilla Counties.

A total of 30 organizations from across the state have joined Oregon Rural Action’s letter, including some of Oregon’s most prominent environmental, Latine, health, and environmental justice groups. These include the powerful Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Center for Food Safety, who added their voices while the community waits.

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