The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality concluded the on-site investigation this week into reports of drums at the bottom of Wallowa Lake labeled with the herbicides “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T.”
Contrary to previous reports by recreational divers, EPA and DEQ’s investigation found only one drum with the “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T” herbicide label. That 55-gallon drum was rusted out with holes and contained lake water, said Oregon DEQ in a press release.
Over the years, many 55-gallon drums have been filled with rocks and concrete to be used as anchors for floating docks or used as floats – and EPA and DEQ believe the drums they’ve found are part of that history.
The EPA-DEQ investigation found a total of 74 drums in the investigation area on the south side of Wallowa Lake. All 74 drums had holes and contained lake water. EPA’s contractors removed all drums that appeared underwater to be intact or had a label indicating it may have previously contained a hazardous substance, a total of five drums:
— One drum labeled “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T”
— One drum labeled “Inspected”
— One drum labeled “Hosp”
— Two drums that did not have labels but appeared underwater to be intact. After further investigation on land, EPA concluded these drums were not intact.
EPA and DEQ determined the remaining non-intact drums found at the bottom of Wallowa Lake are likely filled with lake water and do not pose an imminent risk to people or wildlife.
Despite finding all drums empty and filled with lake water, EPA and DEQ took multiple samples of water and sediment to test for “2,4-D or 2,4,5-T” as an extra precaution. The agencies expect to have initial lab results later this week.
Federal and state agencies will assess the information and data collected during the investigation and will determine appropriate next steps for the area. That work could include additional investigation, historical review and assessment, and possible additional actions including continued sampling of water and sediment.
EPA and DEQ will host a public informational meeting about the drum removal on Tuesday, June 25, 6-8 p.m., at the Joseph Community Center, 102 E. First St., Joseph, Oregon.