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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announces 12 parties have now agreed to clean up the last 25%.

COURTESY IMAGE: EPA - A map of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site that must be cleaned up. A link to a larger version of the map is below.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday, Feb. 12, that it has finalized an agreement with 12 parties to develop detailed cleanup plans for the Swan Island Basin, "completing a major milestone in the cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site."

According to the announcement, this latest cleanup agreement represents nearly 25% of the site's total cleanup area. Along with earlier agreements, it brings 100% of the site's areas requiring active cleanup into the remedial design phase of the Superfund cleanup process.

"This agreement, along with earlier settlements, shows a strong commitment to moving the cleanup of Portland Harbor forward," said EPA Region 10 Acting Regional Administrator Michelle Pirzadeh. "The engineering design work now underway will lead to the active cleanup work, which will greatly improve the health of the river, reduce risks to people and the environment, and set the stage for the revitalization of the Lower Willamette River."

The EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are working with partners — including six tribes, stakeholders and 36 responsible parties — to implement the 2017 Record of Decision to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. It is an approximately 10-mile stretch of the Lower Willamette River in Portland, where approximately 370 acres of contaminated sediment are slated for active remediation to reduce health risks to people, fish and wildlife.

This most recent settlement agreement — called an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent — requires the responsible parties to conduct "remedial design" work to develop a detailed cleanup implementation plan consistent with EPA's 2017 Record of Decision.

The signatories to the agreement include: Daimler Trucks North America LLC; Vigor Industrial LLC; Cascade General Inc.; and Shipyard Commerce Center LLC. Settling parties include: Maritime Administration; U.S. Coast Guard; General Services Administration; Bonneville Power Administration; U.S. Department of Defense (Department of the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers); State of Oregon (Department of State Lands); city of Portland; and Port of Portland.

The EPA describes the Swan Island Basin project area as among the major "hot spot" cleanup areas within the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, with high levels of contamination. Developing a detailed cleanup design for the 117-acre, mile-long area, is expected to take approximately four years, after which active cleanup will begin. The process will include a pre-design sampling investigation and report to understand the current extent of contamination and help determine the most effective cleanup technologies, consistent with the 2017 Record of Decision, the EPA said.

Since December 2019, 31 responsible parties have entered remedial design agreements for 11 project areas for in-water cleanup with EPA oversight. With these project areas, existing agreements, and areas where EPA is taking the initial lead, all the acres designated for active in-water remediation at the site are now in the remedial design phase of the cleanup process.

According to the EPA, over the past year, working parties have made significant progress to complete remedial design, including a substantial amount of field work, design, and planning, bringing the site closer to active construction of the remedy.

Background of project

In 2017, the EPA issued a Record of Decision, or final cleanup plan, for the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. The river sediments, surface water and the fish that reside in the harbor have high levels of PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins/furans, DDT and other pesticides that present an unacceptable risk to people's health, especially subsistence and tribal fishers, and to the environment.

The cleanup should reduce people's exposure to high levels of contaminants, make it safer for all but the most sensitive people to eat more fish from the river more often, and make it safer for people to play on the riverbanks and beaches. Active cleanup construction, including dredging and capping of contaminated sediments, is expected to take about 13 years.

Oregon DEQ is working with property owners to investigate and clean up properties along the riverbank, called "upland sites" to reduce pollution sources to the river and the potential for re-contamination of the harbor.

The EPA said it works with Oregon DEQ to engage with communities, tribal nations, state and local governments, and other stakeholders.

Learn more

The Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Remedial Design at the Swan Island Basin Project Area can be found here.

An EPA fact sheet on the project can be found here.


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