Oregon agencies fail to meet Governor’s well testing deadline in the Lower Umatilla Basin

Mega-dairies play a major role in driving dairy farmers off the land across the country, including in Oregon. They over-produce and flood the market with cheap milk, while externalizing their environmental and social costs, making it hard for small dairy farmers to compete. Forty years ago, Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, mostly small, family-owned businesses. Now approximately 200 remain.

We know mega-dairies are harmful and contribute to significant water contamination in surrounding communities. The sheer amount of manure that mega-dairies produce often exceeds what crops can absorb, resulting in over application and run-off into local waterways. Oregon large CAFOs are a major source of dangerous nitrate contamination in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area. 

In an unprecedented action, the Morrow County Commission declared a local state of emergency over groundwater nitrate pollution that has compromised drinking water for many in the region.

Last May Governor Tina Kotek met with community members in Boardman where she set a deadline to test all 3,300 wells used by households in the two counties for nitrates by September 30th. That deadline passed without ceremony. As of Friday, Sept. 29th, state agencies had only managed to test 1,001 of the domestic wells in the Lower Umatilla Basin.

Around a quarter of the wells tested in 2023 have contained the high levels of nitrate that have plagued the Lower Umatilla Basin since at least 1990, when Oregon declared the region a Ground Water  Management Area and assigned a committee to find ways to reduce contamination in the groundwater.

This is why advocacy is so important because when disasters happen, someone needs to hold agency accountable! Our foundational belief is that agriculture needs to be conscious of its impact on ecosystems and their ability to sustain communities into the future. 


Most well-water users in northeast Oregon counties still in the dark about toxic contamination