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Portland Harbor Listed as Superfund Site

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin
- December 1, 2000

Nearly six miles of the Willamette River in the Portland harbor was placed on the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list today nearly a month later than planned. The listing was scheduled for publication in the Congressional Record Nov. 7, but was held up by a dispute over a Midwest listing.

The rule identifies new sites to join the Superfund National Priorities List, including two other Northwest sites. The rule is a long time in coming. The EPA proposed in April to list 5.5 miles of the Willamette River as a Superfund site, but only after the Port of Portland, landowners along the river and Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality could not come to an agreement either on how to proceed with the cleanup or who would pay for it. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber agreed to the listing in July. But, when the EPA floated a draft of the rule over the summer, few commenters opposed the listing, according to Wallace Reid of the EPA's Region 10 office.

With the rule's publication, one of several legal mechanisms kicks in. Although the ruling makes available the Superfund's $1.4 billion trust, Reid said the preferred method is to work with polluters and get their agreement to pay for the cleanup. Or, the government could unilaterally order the polluters to pay for the cleanup. Or, if all else breaks down, the government can clean up the harbor and sue for payment from the polluters after the job is done.

In the next couple of weeks, EPA will send letters out to about 60 potential responsible parties - those already identified as having contributed to he pollution --and notifying them of the listing. After that the EPA will work towards a contract with them, known as an Administrative Order on Consent, that outlines all parties' legal requirements.

According to The Oregonian, at least a dozen landowners are ready to begin negotiating an agreement and some have voluntarily begun investigating pollution at their sites. DEQ is using public money to investigate sites owned by Union Pacific Railroad and Marine Finance Corp. because they have so far refused to sign agreements.

Reid said about 100 people are already working on the project. Along with the EPA, are DEQ, six tribes, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the natural resource trustees National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

EPA will be the lead agency for cleaning up the river bottom, while DEQ is responsible for uplands areas lining the river.

Link information:
EPA Region 10:
Port of Portland:

Portland Harbor Listed as Superfund Site
Columbia Basin Bulletin, December 1, 2000

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