Willamette River Cleanup Plan
by Sara Roth
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The plan to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site on the Willamette River will cost $750 million, the EPA announced Wednesday.
"EPA estimates that cancer and other serious risks posed by contamination will be greatly reduced -- in many places up to 100 times lower than it is now," the agency said in a press release.
The plan proposes to dredge, cap and monitor toxic sites along 10 miles of the Willamette River from the Broadway Bridge to the Columbia Slough.
More than 1.4 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments will be removed, while 1,900 acres will be monitored while they recover naturally.
That's about 150 acres of sediment that will be dredged, or less than 10 percent of the polluted area.
"The plan is pretty underwhelming," said Travis Williams of the Willamette Riverkeeper. "It's like bringing a toothpick to a sword fight."
Williams said the plan should better remove toxics from the river and provide a safer habitat for the fish, birds and mammals who live there, as well as people who eat fish from the river.
The Lower Willamette Group, which represents 10 corporations who are responsible for some of the pollution and will have to pay for part of the clean up, commended the EPA's plan.
"This complex river system can be cleaned up efficiently and within a reasonable time by focusing on areas where contaminant levels present the greatest potential risk to humans, fish and wildlife," the group said in a press release.
The EPA said it's impossible to restore the Willamette to its original condition.
"You cannot take the river back to pristine levels but we can reduce the risk," said EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran.
McLerran said the plan is based on the best science and most effective cleanup technologies. It costs less than initial estimates, which would have cost between $1 billion and $3 billion.
The cleanup will take a total of 30 years. Construction will encompass seven years and the subsequent 23 years will be spent monitoring the recovery.
The plan is not set in stone. The public is allowed to comment for 60 days and the city will submit a response to the EPA. Public meetings will also be held in Portland between June 24 and July 20.
The final EPA plan is expected in December.
Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup plan
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