Agriculture — Volunteer-based program has seen success reducing water pollutants, new funding means program expansion

In 2000, after local growers in Hood River asked for an alternative solution to insecticides and pollutants in the water, the Pesticide Ste­ward­ship Partnership formed. On a volunteer basis, the PSP monitors pesticides and pollutants in streams and rivers looking for ways to make USDA - Improving water quality - Under the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership program, various forms of pesticides - including those sprayed, drained and dumped into water resources - are monitored and regulated to help reduce the number of pesticide-related pollutants.

“Different practices all added up to improvements in stream quality measured in a couple of years,” said Kevin Masterson, agency toxics coordinator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. “That created momentum to go into other areas with support to do that from local communities.”

This momentum brought PSP to Yamhill County with seven sites in the McMinnville area.

“The DEQ usually has a stream in mind, which is how it got started in Yamhill,” said Luke Westphal, Greater Yamhill Basin Watershed Council executive director. “Someone decided Yamhill’s river tributaries would be a good place to monitor for pesticides. They asked for community input for where they should monitor, and have been in our basin since 2007.”

Masterson said since funding was until recently primarily from grants, cuts meant some sites had to be shut down. Three remained — two on Cozine Creek and one in Palmer Creek.

“What we found is the west fork of Palmer Creek had the highest concentration and most number of detections,” Masterson said. “So we’re there and at the city of Mc­Minnville where we want to be able to have the opportunity to focus on an urban area.”

Westphal said these op­por­tunities are the complete opposite of DEQ regulations in the past.

“We are working with people to make changes in behavior, changes in how we use pesticides, and how to manage land, but it’s on a totally volunteer basis,” he said. “There’s no state hammer coming down saying we found this, you have to do this. The DEQ comes in and they work with local partners, land owners, environmental groups and nonprofit government agencies to identify areas.”

Masterson said with new federal funding, the ability to expand may mean monitoring in Newberg as well.

“There has been discussion about it. Now that we have support from the Legislature, it’s not a huge amount of money but enough that we can expand a little bit,” he said. “We’re starting to do that in other areas and some people brought that area to our attention. We’d love to work with those agriculture commodity groups there, but the decision isn’t ours solely to make because it’s a voluntary group.”

He said the industries locally, primarily hazelnuts and grapes, have already demonstrated leadership in sustainability and land management.

“So it seems like a natural fit, but we’ll see what their reception is,” Masterson said.

To learn more about the PSP, visit

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