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Five Filthy Facts from the $96 Million Portland Harbor Cleanup Study

As reported by Willamette Week -

You can download an executive summary of the study here.

But first, let's address the five most important things the study says.

Portland Harbor property owners make biggest pitch yet for lower-cost Superfund cleanup

by Scott Learn in The Oregonian -

But Jim Robison, chairman of the Harbor's community advisory group, said the group worries pollution will leak from caps and confined disposal facilities, particularly after an earthquake or large floods. Pollution that remains in the river also requires perpetual monitoring, he said.

"We really don't want to see a legacy of pollutants left there," Robison said. "Whenever you leave something in place, under a cap or in a confined disposal facility, you always have the risk that it will leak."


Other recent stories:

OPB - EPA Will Examine Options For Willamette Superfund Site by April Baer -

Travis Williams is the Willamette Riverkeeper. He doesn’t expect big surprises, since the stakeholders preparing the report have been in conversation with his group and others. But he says he hopes the EPA will focus on clean-up options that get toxic substances out of the river.
"To me, that's where the conversation really starts: let's rid this river of contaminated sediment in as many places as possible," says Williams.


Portland Business Journal - Willamette clean-up could reach $1.8 billion by Andy Giegerich -

The feasibility study reports that:

  • Sediment cleanup activities would last between two and 28 years and cost between $169 million and $1.8 billion.
  • Each alternative except for one offered in the report would meet the Superfund goal of reducing health and environmental risks. One option is to not do anything at all.
  • In its present state, contact with sediment or water “does not pose significant potential risk” to individuals.


OPB - EPA To Begin Reviewing Harbor Cleanup Plan, by April Baer -

Barbara Smith is a spokeswoman for the Lower Willamette Group. It includes riverfront industries, the city, and the Port. She says her group was not looking for the cheapest option.

She explained, "Cost is a factor in the criteria that the federal Superfund law has put together. There's nine of those criteria, cost is just one of them. The primary two criteria all the options have to meet is will they be protective of human health and the environment, and do they comply with the law."

Portland Ready To Move Forward On Harbor Cleanup Plan

As reported at OPB News -
by Rob Manning

Portland officials who oversee the city's contaminated harbor said Wednesday they're ready to submit a clean-up plan to the federal government.
The Environmental Protection Agency designated the Portland Harbor as a Superfund site in 2000. The city has studied and talked about the site for 12 years, with harbor neighbors as part of the Lower Willamette Group.  

Blumenauer Questions Sec. Panetta on Superfund

What the Muck? The Portland Harbor is a toxic embarrassment. And there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Willamette Week March 28th, 2012 AARON MESH -
"For the past 12 years, some of the most powerful companies in Oregon have lived in fear of an unspeakable beast at the bottom of the Willamette River, a toxic freak that could figuratively eat them alive."

Lawsuit questions city Superfund spending

Lawyer says sewer money should not be spent to clean up Portland Harbor
By Jim Redden The Portland Tribune, Mar 26, 2012 -

Scientist talks about Willamette River Superfund site

Dr. Peter deFur details pollutants in the riverbed
By Steve Law
The Portland Tribune, Mar 23, 2012
Want to learn more about Portland’s biggest toxic waste site?

Tribal interests being ignored as groups try to influence Portland Harbor cleanup decision

Posted at:

By Ron Karten
Smoke Signals staff writer
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moves closer to assigning responsibility for cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund site in the Grand Ronde Tribe’s ceded lands, companies responsible for the pollution have been busy – without Tribal input – mounting a public information campaign that appears aimed at reducing their potential joint and individual costs.

Oregonian Editorial: Choosing the right cleanup

Posted at
Portlanders will over the next year hear wild things about the cleanup of Portland harbor:

That its cost is so stratospheric as to bankrupt riverfront industries and send jobs elsewhere.

That government officials have decided a tiny cancer risk in humans, produced by eating goat-choking quantities of fish daily from the polluted harbor, must be eliminated at unscalable cost.

That a deficient cleanup of PCB-laden river-bottom sediments will leave a city known for its environmental stewardship with a lifeless, barren waterway.

None is true. Yet each, rooted in fear, carries a whiff of truth sufficient to make cleanup of one of the nation's most complex Superfund sites into a cruel game of 3-D chess, where the player with the most lawyers, catchiest sound bite and quickest route to the courthouse could drive the outcome.

At Portland Harbor Superfund site, advocates push early cleanup of highly contaminated River Mile 11

As reported by Scott Learn in The Oregonian - "The Superfund "megaproject" is entering its 12th year, a drag on economic development in the industrial harbor, with little early cleanup completed. Now, local advocates are pushing the city to kick-start cleanup on River Mile 11, a highly contaminated spot on the Willamette River's east side between the Broadway and Fremont bridges. "
Read the full story at

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