Oct 27, 2009

Study: Oregon's Portland Harbor Threatens Humans, Environment

EPA study a significant move towards massive cleanup of contaminated Superfund

After much contamination left over decades of industrial pollution, a new report is to be released this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) about the contamination of the Portland Harbor Superfund. It is a significant step towards a cleanup, reported The Oregonian.

The report shows that the site—declared a Superfund in 2000—poses health risks to wildlife, fish and humans consuming fish from the Willamette River. The report cost $74 million and was created over a period of eight years, testing 6,000 sediment and water samples, according to The Oregonian.

The project likely will be the most extensive restoration in Oregon history, reported The Oregonian. It may begin in 2013 and could cost at least $1 billion for sewer and utility ratepayers, industry and landowners, according to the report.

"We've got all the information we need now to put together a study that describes what the cleanup options are," said Barbara Smith, a spokeswoman for a coalition involved in the cleanup effort--the Lower Willamette Group--in The Oregonian report. "By this time next year, we think we'll have a plan that really shows how and where to clean up sediment contamination."

The significant contaminants cited in the new U.S. EPA report include polychlorinated biphenyls (or PCBs), dioxins and furans, the banned insecticide DDT and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (or PAHS), according to The Oregonian.

Some contamination gathers in “hot spots,” where concentrations are higher. The Oregonian cited pollution on properties owned by Northwest Natural, Arkema and Port of Portalnd’s Terminal 4 as associated with these spots. The Oregonian report also pointed out that current property owners still can be held accountable for pollution even if it didn’t happen under their supervision.