Yesterday morning’s 100,000-gallon raw sewage spill from a City of Vancouver treatment plant into the Columbia caught a lot of attention, especially coming on the eve of today’s sturgeon retention opener.
Through the day Wednesday, city officials backed off their initial no-contact directive for the river below the railroad bridge below I-5, and state fishery managers worked overtime to inform the fishing public about the situation.
Last night around 7:30, an email from the Columbia River Compact — basically, WDFW’s and ODFW’s local offices on or near the lower river — was sent out with this statement:
“‘We believe the risk of exposure to pathogens from the sewage spill to fishers is low, but as a precaution, if you catch fish downstream of the sewage release, wash it with fresh potable water and cook it thoroughly before eating.’ – Clark County Center for Community Health”
It also says say the health department “asks” people to avoid the water for 48 hours.
To put the size of the spill in comparison, it equaled about one-ninth of a single second’s flow of the Columbia as measured about 50 miles upstream at Bonneville.
As an ODFW fishery manager tweeted at us last night, 100,000 gallons equals around 13,400 cubic feet, and the river was flowing through the dam at 115,000 cubic feet per second yesterday.
The purpose wasn’t to downplay the incident but give it a relative size for comparison’s sake.
Between the dam and the site of the spill it picks up the Washougal and Sandy Rivers, as well as numerous creeks, and just below it half of the Willamette joins the Columbia.
Sturgeon retention is open today between Bonneville and the Wauna powerlines, around 40 miles above Buoy 10, limit one with a fork length of 44 to 50 inches.
Whether you decide to “match the hatch,” as one wag noted, is your own business, but many anglers already use nitrile gloves and yesterday’s spill may be the impetus for others to do so as well.
And be sure to wash the meat of your catch with tap water and make sure it’s fully cooked.
Anglers and others who’ve been on the Columbia and may be concerned about their health can call Clark County Public Health, (360) 397-8428.