The Oct. 20, 1952 issue of The Argus-Observer makes it clear why no one voluntarily swam in the Snake River as it coursed alongside Malheur County in those years.
The newspaper reported that the State Sanitation Board had just given the city of Ontario 90 days to submit a plan, including financing, for building a sewage disposal plant.
At a hearing in Portland the authority claimed Ontario’s pumping of raw sewage into the river was causing a serious pollution problem.
Earlier in the year the authority had issued a similar order to Vale and Nyssa, the paper said. Those cities were also being required “to make plans for adequate precautions against polluting streams.”
Horace Beal, an Ontario city councilman, responded to the order by noting that the city was proceeding on a schedule that would permit construction of such a plant without increasing taxes. But the estimated cost of $150,000 would have to be spread out over time.
He noted that because of tax override votes, “taxes were already high in Ontario,” and suggested that the sewage treatment plant could not be built until “sometime in 1955.”