Department of Ecology News Release - February 25, 2019

Comments sought on a program to reduce nitrate levels in Lower Yakima Valley wells


The Washington Department of Ecology is opening a comment period, and jointly hosting a public hearing with Yakima County, on a proposed program to address nitrates in drinking water in the Lower Yakima Valley.
The Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Advisory Committee approved the draft program on Dec. 13, 2018. The committee moved forward 64 recommendations to reduce nitrate loading and meet drinking water standards within the boundaries of the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Area (GWMA).
In 2012, the advisory committee was appointed by Ecology and GWMA boundaries established to respond to studies that showed nitrate levels were elevated in the groundwater underlying the Lower Yakima Valley.
Recent data indicate that 12 percent of private drinking water wells in the GWMA don’t meet federal drinking water standards. Nitrates are one of the most common groundwater contaminants in rural areas. They are regulated in drinking water primarily because excess levels can cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby" disease.
The draft Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Program can be viewed online, or at Ecology’s Central Regional Office, 1521 W. Alder St., Union Gap, during regular business hours. Please call 509-575-2027, to request a hard copy.
There are multiple ways to provide comment, with written and oral comments receiving equal consideration:

  • A public hearing is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on March 12, 2019, at the Sunnyside Community Center, 1521 S. First St., Sunnyside, Wash. Testimony will be accepted after an overview presentation.
  • ​Written comments will be accepted until March 27, 2019, and may be made online, or addressed to David Bowen, Department of Ecology, Central Regional Office, 1250 W. Alder St., Union Gap, Wash., 98903-0009. 

The program assessed sources of nitrates including irrigated agriculture, livestock operations, residential, commercial, industrial and municipal sources, manure land application, lagoons, on-site sewage systems, residential lawn fertilizers, hobby farms, biosolids, and improperly constructed or abandoned wells.
During the assessment, 31 groundwater monitoring wells were installed in the GWMA boundaries, and a quality assurance plan was developed to guide future monitoring. Four rounds of deep soil sampling from 175 agricultural fields going down to 6 feet below ground were conducted. In addition, over 460 households participated in free well assessment and sampling surveys offered by the advisory committee. 
Recommendations include a request for funding to implement the program, and identify specific actions by federal, state and local agencies, conservation districts, farmers, and citizens, all of whom were represented on the advisory panel.
After comments are assessed, revisions will be considered and the groundwater advisory committee reconvened, with the goal of adopting a final groundwater management program.

Contact information

Joye Redfield-Wilder
Communications manager
Twitter: EcyCentral