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Discussion heats up over chemical waste dump

Bob Schwarz, left, Department of Environmental Quality project manager, addresses area residents in Fort Rock last week regarding the Alkali Lake Chemical Waste Dump. 
Published June 10, 2003

More Lake County residents seeking answers concerning poisonous deposits


H&N Correspondent

FORT ROCK - The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality was put on notice by Lake County Commissioners that Christmas Valley area residents are not alone in their desire to have the Alkali Lake Chemical Waste Dump cleaned up.

During a meeting in Fort Rock last week, commissioner Jim Stewart told DEQ representatives the board wants clean-up efforts to start and requested that county officials be informed of the agency's progress.

The DEQ has spent more than $2 million on the chemical waste site during its 30-year tenure as overseers of the property.

Problems started in the 1960s when 25,000 55-gallon drums filled with dioxin, phenyls, 2,4-D and other highly corrosive, acidic chemical wastes were placed near an alkali lake bed. The barrels rusted out, leaking the poison chemicals into the ground.

In a remedial measure - done over local protests - the state authorized the crushing and burial of the drums into shallow trenches. Because the area was high desert, scientists assumed the groundwater lay deep beneath the surface. Instead the ground water was 3 feet below the surface and the chemicals soon leached into the ground water, spreading contamination in an underground plume.

Sixty-four wells, on and outside the 10-acre site, track the movement of the contaminants in the groundwater. An additional 400 acres were bought to keep the contamination on state property.

Bob Schwarz, DEQ project manager, said Alkali Lake was exempted from funds used for toxic waste cleanup in Oregon.

He said the state is pursuing a settlement with Rhone-Poulenc, the company that now owns Rhodia, Inc., the company responsible for the waste. If Rhone-Poulenc agrees to pay $1 million, the DEQ will release them from further liability at the site.

Area resident Max Shermann questioned the advisability of letting the chemical company buy immunity.

"We propose to use the money to place a plastic sheet over the drum mound. This will prevent further wind dispersal and hopefully slow the precipitation of the poison chemicals into the ground water," said Schwarz.

Judy Blais Napier challenged Schwarz, claiming, "Your credibility is shot. You told us there was zero possibility of contamination from air dispersal, absolutely no problem. Now six months later you are proposing spending a million dollars to cover this mound, so the wind won't blow the chemicals around. What's changed?"

Dolores Raedel of Christmas Valley asked, "Is this action just a million dollar cover-up? Out of sight, out of mind?"

Commissioner Melvin Dick registered concern that placing the plastic and rock cover over the existing mound would just generate more material, which would eventually need to be treated.

Schwarz said there are two problems, chemical waste and contaminated ground water.

When asked about on-site or off-site incineration, Brett McKnight, newly appointed Alkali Lake program manager, said off-site treatment won't happen because of its cost.

Incineration, Schwarz said, is the only approved way to deal with dioxin, but incineration releases dioxin into the atmosphere and also creates dioxin-laced ash.

The DEQ had previously promised area residents the agency would ask the State Legislature for money to do a feasibility study on handling contaminated waste and ground water. No requests have been made because of the Oregon's ongoing economic crisis.

Commissioner Brad Winters said, "Twenty-nine years have passed. Only monitoring has been done. What if you don't get your million dollars? What is your back-up plan?"

Several pilot studies are being done on methods of dealing with the groundwater contamination. Recent water testing is completed and results are expected soon.

Ron Gibson, an engineer from Medford, said he had spent 19 years developing a natural product that he claims could neutralize the dioxin within a relatively short time. He said his product had been tested and used by the military. He asked for a listing of the chemicals present at the site and some soil samples, so he could present a proposal to the DEQ.

Tempers flared briefly when the DEQ representatives indicated there are other sites closer to population centers that need clean-up. McKnight asked, "Just how much do you think DEQ should spend on cleaning up the site? $1 million, $10 million, $20?

"Spend whatever is necessary," said Shermann. "The state made this mistake, the state can clean it up."

Stewart asked DEQ officials for progress reports concerning the site.

"We have put them on notice. We expect something to be done," Stewart said. "I will speak to the governor about this matter next week."

Correspondent Jean Bilodeaux covers Surprise Valley. She can be reached at (530) 279-2031, or at P.O. Box 5, Cedarville, CA 96104, or by sending an e-mail to



Not only, the 1500 families in the Klamath Falls area will be directly affected, Countless numbers of families across this Great State of Oregon will experience the monetary and physical destruction of this fish.

Written by the Oregon Observer Staff

JUST LIKE the suckerfish in the Klamath Falls ordeal, the issue at hand is water.  How could the water from this oasis in the middle of this vast desert in Central Oregon become your own family's personal nightmare?  The pathway, as toxicologist refers to it as a process called 'bio-magnification' (Oregon Observer, vol. 7, no. 5). 
UNLIKE the suckerfish, there is a simple solution to the problems surrounding the spring waters of the endangered Tui Chub.  So relax and enjoy a brief history on this incredible survivor of the desert.

Around 30,000 years ago, the Great Basin inland seas were inter-connected stretching from Salt Lake City to the east, Las Vegas to the south, and to just a few miles north of Fort Rock, OR.  The actions from the waves of these lakes are still clearly visible today. Once you see the 'shore lines' for the first time, you will forever see the obvious wave 'cuts' and 'terrace'.  The fossil remains of the Tui Chub during this time have shown the average size to be 1500 POUNDS!  When the seas began to drain, the Tui Chub downsized to its presentlength of just over 1 INCH!  This incredible fish also chose the free-flowing springs of Hutton Springs, where it is living today. As long as the Tui Chub stays upstream and the West's largest aquifer keeps producing clear water from an unknown source, the Tui Chub is going to be all right. The problem, dioxins, flow downstream, all the way to the California border and EVERYWHERE IN-BETWEEN! 
From February 1969 through December 1971, Rhodia Chemical of Portland, OR  placed 1.37 million gallons of the most toxic substance known to man over the headwaters of these springs.  In 1976 under the watchful eye of our Department of Environmental Quality, trenches were dug into the aquifer, and rotting 55-gallon barrel drums were crushed and buried. The oil-based dioxins DO NOT break down in the alkaline soil nor do they break down in water.  These poisons do not even break down in the extreme sunlight. They merely move along the food chain and magnify the toxicity EACH STEP of the way.  This is why it is called bio-magnification and not bio-accumulating as the way it crawls onto your dinner plate.
The waste land created by Rhodia Chemical, with the DEQ's blessing, will forever be a burden on the state of Oregon and in particular, her people, for generations to come. 
Your family's position in the poisoned food chain of the Tui Chub headwaters can be calculated by totaling all the ways the toxins can be transmitted to their insides.  If your family drinks or cultivates with the water of the Tui Chub, then you are in direct contact with the dioxins (Ore. Observer vol. 10 no. 2).  Do you consume beef that has been fed with alfalfa that has been in direct contact with the Tui Chub's water?  Does you family enjoy any of the cheeses of this great state?  Milk?  Due to the complexity and cost, dioxins are not tested for at the factory. Are VEGENS immune?  No, because when the dioxin coated fields are burned, the toxins become airborne and travels to who knows where.  The low heat only increases the toxicity and makes it easier for the dioxin to hide in your stalk of asparagus.  The most common way of the dioxins entering your body is through contaminated foods.  The lethal ability of this type of dioxin is why it is known as the most toxic substance known to man.
Do YOUR neighbors complain about the water?  Does your family or neighbors have a 'higher than normal' rate of adult onset diabetes?  Chloracne?  In the area where you live, is the 'cancer of choice' multiple myeloma?  Prostrate cancer? Toxic poisoning attacks your immune system, causing headaches and nausea for starters. The toxins are in your blood at this stage.  The liver is another favorite area the dioxins tend to camp out and wreak havoc. The chemicals left by Rhodia Chemical in Lake County, according to the DEQ,  have the ability to cause birth defects and possibly the death of your future generations.
As you can see already, the number of ways of transmission of these poisons to your family and the possible health effects DIRECTLY related to toxic poisoning of the Tui Chub's water are INCALCULABLE!
IF YOU THINK testing the water for the dioxins (approx. $1500) is a for sure science, consider the properties of the components involved.  Oil-based dioxins float along at random.  Aquifers are constantly changing their levels and flows. Tests are based on your water from the aquifer at a particular moment, (A snapshot of time). Those dioxins may only appear in your coffee every other Tuesday!  This is the "complexity" part of testing for the free-floating dioxins.
You would think your  local municipality water supply that tests for toxins on a regular basis would randomly catch these dioxins as they passed through to your kitchen sink. They do!  What is ordered then is what they call in the filtration industry as the " 'ole' retest".  More water from the well, the cleaner the sample will be for the test.  REMEMBER the toxins will be located in your first cup of coffee.
We at the Oregon Observer offer a simple solution to the plight of the Tui Chub and in particular our friends and families that live down stream, CLEAN UP THE MESS AND SEND THE BILL TO RHODIA CHEMICAL!
In DEQ's latest report on Alkali Lake, it states that Rhodia Chemical dumps it and there is no money to clean it up. Since when does DEQ use their OWN money to clean up waste sites?  Show Rhodia Chemical the same disrespect as they would show any of us reading this article, if we deliberately  pour a gallon of this substance on the ground, let alone down another man's well.  
Written by: The Oregon Observer Staff

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The Department of Enviornmental quality has stated that Alkali Lake area is "not a garden spot." 
It is a wasteland now because D.E.Q. permitted the disposalof the most toxic chemical substance [dioxins] known to man to be mixed directly into the top aquifier. Once the dioxins have entered the enviornment or body, "they are there to stay" due to their uncanny ability to disolve in fats and to their rock-solid chemical stability. Their half-life in the body is seven years. In the enviornment, dioxins tend to bio-accumulate in the food chain, according to the World Health Org. Put another way; if you are watering your alfalfa with contaminated water,no matter how slight the contamination is, the dioxins are accumulating in the animals that are eating their alfalfa. The cancer causing dioxin will appear in the milk and/or in the meat. If the milk or meat is consumed, greater accumulated concentrations of dioxins are passed on to the consumer (cooking temp. increases the toxicity)! Ken Cameron, geologist for D.E.Q., 11 year study of the site, assured a group of concerned locals, that the 'plume' [10.3 acres with 1.35 million gallons of dioxins] was NOT moving and hasn't moved since it's been there. Ron Johnson, of Christmas Valley, understood the geologist to say that it would take "an act of God" for those chemicals to reach the water supply. Brian McClure, project manager, stressed not once but twice that NO contaminants have reached West Alkali Lake. Mr. McClure said their main concern was West Alkali Lake because of the birds and marine life that live at the lake. In DEQ's own Site Summary report of Alkali Lake, "contamination has been confirmed in West Alkali Lake." Mike Poulsen, toxologist for DEQ told the group about the risk factors and the pathways of transmission to humans. Mr.Poulsen stated that, 'besides building a house on the plume' ther was no risk to humans. He went on to assure the group that the dioxins "breakdown in the sunlight." According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, you can be "exposed by breathing, eating, or drinking the substance or by skin contact."
The Dioxin of most concern in Alkali Lake is tetraclorodibenzo-p-dioxin, also known as TCDD. This dioxin does not breakdown in sunlight. In an EPA report leaked to the Washington Post on May 17, 2000; the most potent form of the dioxin group, TCDD(the main constituent of Agent Orange) has been reclassified as a "definite" human carcinogen. Some known effects of exposure to TCDD are increased rate of Adult Onset Diabetes, soft tissue sarcoma, prostate cancer and the extremely rare cancer; multiple myeloma, (which is accociated with Agent Orange). Those listed are by no means the only health issues involved, but these issues might be familiar to the residents of Lake County
Lake County has the second highest cancer rate in the state for all cancers, according to the Oregon State Cancer Registry(OSCaR. We are second in the state for incidents of breast cancer, second in the state for colon and rectal cancer, fifth for lung and second for prostate cancer. As for multiple myeloma, we are living in a "hot" zone, with just four neighbors that had reported cases of this devastating disease in Lake County from 1996-98. Of the four reported cases that were reported to the OSCaR, I have four neighbors that have had a spouse die or currently fighting Multiple Myeloma that haven't been recorded. Cancer, by law,must be reported to the Oregon State Cancer Registry within six months of diagnosis. None of my neighbors cancers have been recorded. Even on death certificates,other causes were listed.  The National Observer is currenty investigating the situation. If you have friend or relatives that are currently fighting cancer or died from it, please contact Oregon Cancer Registry at 503-731-4858 or Glenda Miller of Fort Rock, OR. at 541-576-2850.    
Editors Note: Fort Rock,Oregon has a total population of 22.

Written by: Gregory Thomas Williams - Sept. 25, 2001
We have local concerns about dioxins from the production of Agent Orange. The residue for that production was dumped at Alkali Lake including at least 25,000 barrels of toxic residue and then crushed by the State government into the ground by and literally covered up.
Local citizens are striving to compel the government to clean up the problem that the US government created and the State government covered up.
They would have you believe that every thing is okay as they did in Vietnam and with the veterans of that war that have suffered devastating effects (see agent orange). Now after thirty years the government is starting to concede the truth of the undeniable disaster in health they have caused but still at Alkali Lake they are not willing to admit the danger. There is little population in the county and therefore little political clout. Evidence is coming to light that there is a high rate of cancer and possible birth defects. 
They do not have the resources of the thousands of Veterans and the nation of Vietnam so the cover-up continues.
If any one would like to help these rural citizens contact them at this site: 

25,000 Barrels containing dioxins and other toxic residues stacked before being run over by bulldozers: Doctored pictures at this link below:Link to DEQ pictures

Written by: Glenda Miller
      On July 23, 2001, a group of angry citizens from Lake Co. met at the Fort Rock Grange in Fort Rock, Oregon to demand that the state take immediate action to clean up the toxic chemical waste dump located in Alkali Lake in Lake county, Oregon. The group, spearheaded by Delores Raedel and Lake County Commissioner candidate Dalton Johnson, had demanded that the State Department of Enviornmental Quality (DEQ) meet with the citizens, who have been forced to live with the dump since it was established by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
      In response to the citizens demand, DEQ sent Robert Schwartz-Project manager, Terry Hosaka-Eastern Region Cleanup Manager, Ken Cameron-Geologist and Mike Poulson-Toxicologist, to explain the current condition of the dump and what the state was doing about the problem.
      Hosaka tried to minimize the gravity of the situation by saying the dump was set up a long time ago and the people should not be concerned because the state was actively monitoring the site. He said the state wanted to clean up the dump now, but did not have the money. He said he hoped the 2005 State Legislature would appropriate the necessary funds so cleanup could begin.
      Geologist Cameron said because of the geology in the area the toxic waste had penetrated 12 feet down and spread some 1500 feet from the original 10 acre dump site. He said the area of contamination has spread very little in the last 10 years. Toxicologist Paulson said they have been monitoring rodents and other animal life in the area and the level of toxins in their systems are within acceptable limits. Many of the local residents spoke up saying it was intolerable, given the very health risks involved, that the state would allow this condition to exist in this area over 25 years without cleanup. Dalton Johnson said that if a private citizen dumped even a gallon of the toxic waste on the ground they would be arrested and jailed. Johnson demanded that the state stop stalling and immediately begin the cleanup process. Land owners who have land adjacent to the dump site spoke of the horrible smell coming from the dump site. They called it a "smell of death." 12-year old Allison Pick asked, "Who gave permission for them to use this site as a dump site?"
      DEQ, during their presentation pointed out that during the 60's, a company called Chem-Waste was given a permit by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to store 25,000 - 55 gallon barrels of highly toxic and corrosive waste products at the Alkali Lake site. The chemicals included residue of the manufacture of 2-4-D. This incredibly toxic substance has the ability, with only 1/2 quart, to kill 200,000 people. According to witnesses, they tried all manner of disposal, including spreading the chemicals on roadbeds, land and airstrips, with the hope the compounds would be broken down by the weather. The noxious elements stayed at full lethal strength and still remain, contaminating the countryside. When spreading it on the land did not work, and since the barrels were quickly disintegrating, spilling their contents onto the desert floor, it was decided to bury the problem under DEQ's watchful eye. They brought in D8 Cats, dug shallow trenches, crushed the barrels and covered them with dirt and gravel within 12 feet of one of the West's largest water supplies.
      The citizens who gathered for the meeting watched a 5 minute video, taken by a Portland TV station in 1976, showing the equipment running over the barrels with the deadly chemicals being spewed into the air. Two feet of dirt and rock were then spread over the 1,375,000 gallons of toxic waste dumped on the bare ground. Toxologist Poulson said the toxicity can increase 3-fold in wind speeds generated by the 'dust devils' that are common in the region. Dalton Johnson pointed out that the aquifer, at the dump site, is so close to the surface, that DEQ will not issue a permit for a septic system, but will allow the burial of this time bomb. When Bob Schwarz, the new project manager, was asked by Johnson if it was prudent behavior to be drilling monitoring wells through the contaminated aquifer to the "supposedly" uncontaminated  lower aquifers, he would not answer the question.
      Johnson suggested to those present that the people treat this in the same fashion that DEQ would treat any citizen that deliberately poured oil or gasoline or other toxic material on their land. He said "Let's clean up the mess and send them the bill." The group also demanded the cleanup start immediately.
      Johnson introduced Roger Weidner, 1998,Oregon Reform Party Candidate for Governor, to those present at the meeting. He said he first became aware of Weidner four years ago when Weidner had spoken to a group in Fort Rock about the widespread corruption problem in the Oregon court system. He said he asked Weidner to speak to the group to suggest ways they might get the state to start immediate cleanup. Weidner, a former attorney and public prosecutor, pointed out it was criminal for the state, or anyone else, to not clean up toxic waste they have caused to be spilled on the ground. He said the state, contrary to law, is operating with dual standards. One set of laws applies to them, where they can do anything they want with impunity, and the other set applies to anyone who challenges or criticizes the actions of the state.
      Weidner held up a copy of The Oregon Observer and told those present that if they wanted immediate action from the state in cleaning up the dump they should put the story in the paper. He said the paper should then be spread all over the state so the outraged citizens of the state will demand that their elected officials force DEQ to take immediate action to clean up the site.
      For more information please call (928) 210-2803 or e-mail Delores Raedel

Editorial by: Bruce Brandenburg
By dumping chemicals in what once was a wilderness area, was and still shows a wanton disregard for past, present and future generations who have lived, now live and will eventually want to live in our once pristine desert. Located just 35 miles southeast of Christmas Valley, Oregon. That's what Rhodia Chemical Company , did between the years 1967-1971. This was approved by the state of Oregon. They were ordered to stop dumping in 1971,(the same year we stopped using agent orange in Vietnam), and start cleaning it up. Well, here it is, 40 years later and it still is not cleaned up. In fact DEQ, (after already spending $2 million on research and testing), is still wanting to do more monitoring at the site. Their timeline shows that the earliest possible time to start cleaning up the site is 2005. The state has spent only $15 thousand on an attempt at a clean-up, which in fact, made it worse. Worse being that it could have been incinerated had the barrels not been crushed because there is no incineration facility in the United States. The closest facility is in Canada but since the barrels are not whole they are now near to impossible to transport. See our SISTER SITE.

INTERESTING READING: "Biological Time Bomb In Oregon" by: Ida Honorof

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