What They’re Watching: Rep. Marty Wilde

Rep. Marty Wilde represents House District 11 which stretches across Lane and Linn Counties. Among several committee appointments, Wilde is a member of the Joint Task Force on Universal Health Care and the House Interim Committee on Water. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss environmental health and the public health issues related to water quality. This interview was filmed during the Oregon State of Reform Health Policy Conference in November.



“Two major issues we’re working on — both related to water. We have a new House Water Committee and so the first issue is hazardous algal blooms. I’ve been working with Jack Zika and a number of water providers to make sure that what happened in Salem doesn’t happen again. Or if it does, we detect it and respond to it quickly so that no one is hurt. I mean one of the values we all share as Oregonians is you want to be able to turn on the tap and drink the water.

The second thing I’ve been working a lot on is pesticides, and herbicides, and water. Right now, we have a standard where if it only gives one in 20,000 people cancer, it’s okay. And so there’s a petition out there that would reduce that by half because I don’t think any of us would feel comfortable saying, ‘Hey we’ve got a great new school we’re going to send your kid to, but by the way, one in 20,000 of them will get cancer from going there.’ So, we want to cut that rate in half for regulatory regime, and that will have some impacts. I think we have seen some improvements in water quality with agriculture and forestry runoff, but 27 percent of the watersheds were worse than last year in the most recent measurement. So, that’s a really critical, important issue.

So, climate change has a number of impacts on water quality. It can be everything from just increasing the temperature of the water which creates hazardous algal blooms in itself, they can also of course affect the vegetation around the water as well as the kind of crops, which contains runoff patterns and again can impact the water quality as well. So, I mean it’s funny you can talk to people and they’ll still remember times when, you know, the Willamette River wasn’t anything you could swim in. And that’s within living memory and we’ve done such good work to clean it up over the past decades, but now we’re really worried about it getting worse.”