EPA eyes N. Portland site for toxic dump

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Willamette River from the Broadway Bridge to Sauvie Island is lined with toxic waste from years of marine and industrial activities. It’s a Superfund site the EPA ordered to be cleaned up.

But that toxic waste has to go somewhere and one proposal is to bury it all in one of the slips at Terminal 4 near the St. John’s Bridge in North Portland.

Terminal 4 is practically in the shadow of the St. Johns Bridge and the St. Johns neighborhood, with an elementary school about a mile-and-a-half away. A popular park is in the area.

Neighbors have concerns about the safety of that plan that could bring contaminated waste to their neighborhood permanently.

Dennis Keppes and his wife Jamie teach their grandchildren life lessons at their home on a daily basis.

“We make a mess, we clean it up,” he said.

8-15-13-port terminal 4
Terminal 4 at the Port of Portland. (KOIN 6 News)

He’s hoping the EPA and the Port of Portland clean up the mess without adding danger to their neighborhood.

“It’s just phenomenal to me that they can dig it up out of the river and turn around and put it back in the river,” Keppes told KOIN 6 News. “It seems to me you would clean it up and dispose of it.”

The Port of Portland’s Josh Thomas said, “The EPA is looking at a number of different alternatives.”

An EPA spokesperson in Seattle said Thursday no decisions have been made, but added Confined Disposal Facility — CDFs — have a “good track record” at managing sediments. Also, the Port of Portland has prepared more than half of the design work to bury the waste at Terminal 4 at the request of the EPA.

The design work was done to determine the feasibility of this option.

“I want to know that it’s safe. I don’t want someone telling me it’s OK,” Keppes said. “That’s insufficient.”

The neighbors fear the waste could seep back into the river or travel through the air into their homes, schools and farms. They also worry it wouldn’t stand up to a big flood or a major earthquake.

“That gets into a lot of ‘what ifs,'” Thomas said. “What if EPA  determines there should be a CDF? Then what if that CDF should be at Terminal 4, not at Swan Island Lagoon? I don’t think it’s appropriate to go down that road.”

“I just don’t want to leave a mess for someone else to clean up, the kids, the grand kids to clean that up,” Keppes said. “We’re just saying, if you’re digging it up and you’re going to stir it up, clean it up.”

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