, 2022-12-07 07:01:59,
a toxic mystery
Questions about fish safety go back generations in some tribal families, predating government concerns by decades.
Karlen Yallup recalls being told by tribal elders that the water was clean enough to drink at Celilo Falls, their main fishing spot on the Columbia River. Yallup’s great-great-grandparents, members of the Warm Springs Tribe, lived near the falls and fished there every day.
With the rise of the industrial revolution, agriculture, industry, and urban sprawl grew throughout the basin. In 1957, the falls were submerged by water that pooled behind The Dalles Dam, one of 18 built on the Columbia and its main tributary, the Snake River, to turn the river into a navigation channel, irrigate farmland and generate hydroelectricity. By then, the pollution from these new industries had made the water dirty.
Tribal elders told Yallup they knew the water was no longer clean enough to drink when they could see changes and hear differences in the way it ran. They were also concerned about the health impacts of Hanford, a sprawling nuclear weapons production complex tens of miles upriver. Hanford became one of dozens of heavily contaminated sites in the Columbia Basin, considered one of the largest and most expensive toxic cleanups in the world.
Yallup said his elders began to suspect that whatever was getting into the water was getting into the fish. They became very concerned that the salmon would make the family sick, she said.
It wasn’t until the 1990s,…
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