Private college remakes polluted brownfield into campus addition

For more than a century, there was nothing "natural" about Triangle Park.

At least 50 industrial operations occupied the North Portland site: a lumber mill, a concrete plant, a shipbuilder, a dry dock, iron works and a power plant, to name a few.

The newest owner, the University of Portland, is taking the Willamette riverfront property in a different direction. It recently transformed the once-contaminated site into its new River Campus, boasting that it provides a "host of opportunities for natural resource restoration, a new greenway and trail, increased opportunities for public use, stewardship of natural resources by the university’s well-regarded environmental science program, and expansion of university facilities."

After buying the 35-acre property in 2008, the university worked with the city of Portland, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up toxic soil and groundwater. The soil, contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, asbestos, arsenic, lead, copper, nickel and chromium, was been excavated, disposed of off-site and capped.

"Now it's essentially cleaned up," says Jim Anderson, DEQ's Superfund section manager.

Triangle Park is in the Portland Harbor but not an official Superfund site. It was considered an orphaned brownfield site because its prior owner, the Riedel/Willamette Western Corp., went bankrupt in 1991 and couldn't pay for cleanup.

The Oregon DEQ Orphan Program uses state funds to clean up such sites.

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