Threats to drinking water can come in many ways. Improperly disposed of chemicals, animal wastes, pesticides, human wastes, naturally-occurring substances or improperly maintained distribution systems may pose a health risk. Eleven of the fishing access sites have water systems that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently reviewing for compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The Indian Health Service (IHS) works with the EPA to establish and monitor SDWA standards throughout Indian Country. Over the summer and fall, the EPA will designate 8 of the 11 In-lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites with wells to be Public Water Systems. The sites are Cooks, North Bonneville, Stanley Rock, Dallesport, Celilo, Maryhill, Preacher’s Eddy, Pasture Point and Roosevelt. Last year, IHS surveyed the water safety status of all the Columbia River In-lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites with wells. The surveys, completed earlier this year, identified possible significant deficiencies that must be corrected before these sites can be designated as Public Water Systems. None of the fishing access sites constructed prior to 2001 were designed with SDWA standards in mind. The sites built after 2001 were designed to meet some of the standards, but not all. In an effort to protect the tribal members who use and rely on the these sites, CRITFC and its member tribes are working with IHS and the EPA to ensure they have clean water that meets SDWA standards. To meet the goal of full SDWA compliance, the sites must undergo retrofit construction and repairs, some of them major.
The retrofit construction and repair projects will begin in late June and continue into July. The work may require shutting off the water on the site for short periods of time, but notices will be posted prior to any shut off. Water will only be shut off at one site at a time and for as short a time as required to make the necessary retrofits and repairs. North Bonneville and Cooks will be the first two sites to received upgrades and repairs. These two sites have the oldest wells and pump systems and will require the most extensive work. This will be followed by work on the Stanley Rock and Celilo systems. The EPA goal is to ensure safe, clean water is available to those who use these water systems. The CRITFC’s goal is to provide tribal fishers with safe water for drinking and processing their fish harvest. Potable water is the cornerstone to any sanitary plan and is required for compliance with HACCP standards and the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act Regulations. CRITFC’s Fishing Site Maintenance Department has worked hard to provide potable water to tribal fishers and their families who use the fishing access sites and will continue to do so. If you have any questions or concerns, please call Michael Broncheau, Manager, FSMD at (503) 866-8375.