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City Council to consider unique $24 million agreement to encourage those responsible for pollution in the Portland Harbor to create cleanup plans.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - This stretch of the Willamette River north of the Broadway Bridge is the most upstream spot in the 10-mile long Superfund Site, known as River Mile 11 E.

A unique agreement to jumpstart the cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site will go before the City Council next Wednesday, May 15.

Portland, the State of Oregon and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have agreed to create a $24 million fund to encourage the design of cleanup plans for the polluted portions of the site. The city and state would each contribute $12 million to a trust administered by the EPA, which designed a 10-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River a superfund site in 2000.

The money would be offered to the more than 150 parties identified by the EPA with potential liability for paying cleanup costs in 2017. Under the agreement, $80,000 per acre would be available to the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to help pay for the remedial design of their cleanup plans.

"We are proud to partner with the State of Oregon on this exciting approach," said Mayor Ted Wheeler, "and we appreciate EPA's willingness to think outside the box with us. We look forward to continued progress toward a healthy, working river."

Portland's share of the money would come from a superfund-related charge being collected in the city's combined water-sewer-stormwater management bills. Oregon's share would come from funds already approved by the Legislature for cleaning up the site.

"Our waters and our lands are some of our most precious resources, and this project will help ensure that they will be enjoyed by generations to come," said Governor Kate Brown. "It's a great example of how working together brings forward cost-effective solutions."

The EPA has never approved a similar proposal — called the City and State Settlement Agreement — to help clean up a superfund site before.

The EPA has estimated the total cleanup costs at around $1 billion. It has been in secret negotiations with the PRPs for several years. The goal is to get them agree on how much each should contribute to cleaning up all of the polluted locations in the site. Portland and Oregon are both potentially liable for multiple locations.

Some of the PRPs have already admitted potential liability and begun working on locations. They include the city, the state, the Port of Portland, PGE and Northwest Natural. Others are believed to be reluctant to admit liability and incur cleanup costs.

The EPA informed the PRPs in December 2018 that they must begin

negotiations June 30 to perform remedial design work for the areas not already under agreement and sign remedial design agreements by December 31. Portland and Oregon support those efforts.

The EPA can go to federal court to force compliance. The fund is intended to encourage compliance instead. Under the agreement, the EPA will credit the city and state for the trust funds spent for remedial planning by the other PRPs.

You can read the ordinance here.

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