Dick Zimmerlee spent decades as a rancher, farmer and agriculture consultant.

But each day he spends studying the soils and groundwater on his ranch near Prineville, trying to find out why black sludge started clogging pipes and settling in his toilet, his knowledge becomes more akin to an amateur geologist.

PVILLE CONTAMINATED H20

Dick Zimmerlee holds a sample of contaminated water from his Prineville-area home. 

PVILLE CONTAMINATED H20

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley pulls his sludge-covered hand from the toilet tank in Don Porfily’s Prineville-area home. 

PVILLE CONTAMINATED H20

Prineville-area residents look at a map of the area where contaminated well water has been found. 

PVILLE CONTAMINATED H20

Ashley McCormick talks about health issues among family members that she attributes to contaminated well water in Crook County.

Our journalism needs your support. Please become a subscriber today at The ֱܽ, www.bendbulletin.com/subscribe-now.

ֱܽ reporter Michael Kohn contributed to this report.

Reporter: cfranke@bendbulletin.com

Reporter

Clayton Franke covers growth, development and transportation for The ֱܽ. A graduate of the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communication, Clayton joined The ֱܽ in 2024. He was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. 

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.