The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will be hosting meetings with citizens about septic system maintenance and nitrates in Hermiston and Umatilla this week.

There was another session planned for Boardman, but the Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is hosting the event, canceled it due to lack of interest. The SWCD encourages Boardman residents to attend either of the other two meetings.

The discussions will be round-tables with DEQ hydrogeology staff and cover problems faced in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area concerning groundwater nitrates.

The meetings will also give people a chance to express concerns and receive information regarding well health, pasture management and water testing.

The meetings will be held:

? At 6:30 p.m., June 17 at The Great Room No. 120 at Blue Mountain Community College, 980 S.E. Columbia Drive, Hermiston.

?At 6:30 p.m., June 18 at the Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District, 305 Willamette, Umatilla.

Seating is limited, so the SWCD requests people pre-register by calling 276-8131.

Exposure to water with a high level of nitrates may cause serious health problems for infants, especially children under the age of 6 months, DEQ said. Water contaminated with nitrates may also affect the resale value of property and could potentially lead to the loss of public drinking water.

In 1990, DEQ declared the lower Umatilla Basin a Groundwater Management Area because of higher nitrate levels in the groundwater.

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