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Chlorinated Water Spills into Columbia River

by Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press, April 2, 2004

An estimated 23,000 gallons of diluted chlorine spilled from the Bonneville Dam into the Columbia River, officials said.

The spill occurred when contractors began installing new drinking water pipes at the dam on Wednesday, said Matt Rabe, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam.

Part of the installation process involves rinsing the new pipes with chlorine.

"It was hyperchlorinated drinking water," Rabe said. "The concentration is four parts per million that's less than a pint of chlorine. It's the same substance you find in drinking water."

Steve Williams, assistant fisheries chief of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said his department had not received any reports of dead fish.

"It sounds like a lot, but it's not much in comparison to the Columbia River as a whole," he said. "I'm going to guess and I am guessing that it's not going to have much of an impact."

But Brent Foster, attorney for the Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental group, said he was concerned.

"Depending on the concentration, chlorinated water certainly has a potential to kill fish and other aquatic species," he said.

This year, the Corps has locked horns with environmental groups several times over a series of oil spills the first and largest of which went unreported for several days.

"At this point we're just wondering when is it going to stop," Foster said. "While we're still struggling to figure out what the full effect of this spill is, the reality is that once again that the Corps has given the public no notice of this event."

Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press
Chlorinated Water Spills into Columbia River, April 2, 2004

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