UPDATE: City of Medford Responds to Accusations of 'Polluting' Rogue River

Photos from the complaint filed by NWEA against the City of Medford. Photos from the complaint filed by NWEA against the City of Medford.

The group Northwest Environmental Advocates is suing Medford for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act through the release of treated sewage into the Rogue River.

Posted: May. 17, 2018 10:12 AM

UPDATE: The City of Medford has provided NewsWatch 12 with a response to the allegations posed in a lawsuit filed by NWEA.

According to the City, they have and will continue to work closely with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to ensure that all discharges from the City's sewage treatment plant meet their permit requirements.

Photos from the complaint filed by NWEA against the City of Medford.

However, the City disputes the conclusions of a study cited by NWEA in their suit.

Another study cited by NWEA, according to the City, is from the DEQ itself. The City claims that this study contradicts NWEA's conclusions, and are apparently quoting that study in their statement:

"Nuisance algal growth and nutrients concerns are not just confined to below the Medford [wastewater treatment plant]," but are "a broader issue in the Rogue River from below the Lost Creek Reservoir downstream to the former Gold Ray dam."

The City of Medford claims that this DEQ study demonstrates that the same problems in the Rogue River exist both upstream and downstream of the wastewater treatment plant.

"It is important to fully analyze the river's condition and its various causes before spending public dollars so the City can ensure that any money spent on equipment upgrades are used efficiently and in a responsible manner," said a City spokesperson.

(Updated as of 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 17)

MEDFORD, Ore. — An environmental group is suing the City of Medford for allegedly polluting the Rogue River with 'excess nutrients,' resulting in the runaway growth of fungi, algae, and a 'visibly foamy and discolored effluent plume' on the water's surface.

Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA) are suing Medford under the Clean Water Act. As one of the nation's federally recognized 'Wild and Scenic' rivers, the Rogue River is subject to additional safeguards.

The lawsuit alleges that Medford is guilty of discharging 'nutrient pollution'—or wastewater overly-rich in chemicals that are not necessarily assumed to be harmful, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. While helpful as plant fertilizers on farms, the NWEA claims, these chemicals can cause the overgrowth of harmful algae or aquatic weeds in waterways.

“This sliming of the Rogue River is equal parts the fault of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Medford,” said Nina Bell, Executive Director of the Portland, OR-based NWEA. “DEQ never told Medford to clean up its discharge of nutrient pollution. But equally, Medford has been on notice for over five years that it is violating its permit, and it has done absolutely nothing to clean up the mess,” she added.

NWEA claims that they have the results of three scientific studies to support their case. They also say that the City is in violation of their wastewater discharge permit—although the permit expired in 2016 but 'remains valid.'

NewsWatch 12 reached out for comment on the lawsuit from the City of Medford late this afternoon, and is currently awaiting a response.

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