Siletz River tests fail to detect contaminants


SILETZ — Siletz River sediment test results are in, and the lab did not detect any of the contaminants tested for.

According to Lincoln County, that means either the contaminants weren’t present in the samples tested or the amounts of the contaminants were so low they were below the detectable limit.

“That is the baseline data point that can be compared to other data,” said Amy Chapman, Lincoln County Environmental Health Program Manager. “We can use this as a starting point for future testing.”

A group of Lincoln County residents from the group Save Our Siletz River sent samples of the river’s sediment to an independent lab in Washington, hoping to find out if there were any dangerous chemicals from biosolids runoff in the river that sustains so much life in the east part of the county.

The laboratory looked for 23 chemicals, including Naphthalene, Acenaphthylene, Acenaphthene, Dibenzofuran, Fluorene and Phenanthrene.

Texas-based ALS Group USA Corp., which has offices in Washington, did the testing. Members of Save Our Siletz River paid for the testing with $690 from the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, which voted to grant the money to the group in early October. The group collected their samples to send to the lab later that month.

“The results are a baseline,” said Kayleen Davis, a member of Save Our Siletz River. “‘Not detected’ isn’t the same as “Not present.’”

Kayleen added she’s happy to see that some chemicals tested in the ALS analysis weren’t detected in large amounts in the river, but that she knows the Siletz River is still in trouble.

“We’re still concerned about the water,” Kayleen said. “This is a minimum start. We want to rehabilitate the river and bring it back to life.”

County officials, who have been involved in efforts to better understand the effect of biosolids on the local environment, agree the formation of a baseline for testing is a step in the right direction.

“This is what we needed to move forward for more testing,” said Casey Miller, public information officer to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners. “That’s good we got a sample before the rains came.”

According to a press release from Lincoln County, one location where samples were collected was next to local farmer Jeff Mann’s property, close to Moonshine Park. Biosolids were applied to Mann’s farm by the city of Depoe Bay in May 2018. The second location was near a field owned by Howard Wyscaver near Logsden Church, where biosolids from the Inn at Otter Crest were applied in August 2018.

The third location was Cedar Creek, below farms owned by Brent May and Jerry Kosydar. Biosolids from Toledo were spread on both farms from the spring to fall of 2018.

Results were originally expected on Nov. 1, but an equipment breakdown at ALS delayed the process until Tuesday, when results were released. The results — the outcome of the only independent analysis of these chemicals in the Siletz River — follows test results from the EPA, which announced in November the agency was unable to assess the impact on human health and the environment of unregulated pollutants in these biosolids.

According to Kayleen’s husband Alan Davis, the DEQ is one of a number of agencies that might conduct tests on the river going forward.

“We have a long way to go,” Kayleen said.

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