Final Portland Superfund plan: Faster, costlier

13-year cleanup, with groundbreaking in 3-5 years

An aerial view of the Portland Superfund site, June 8, 2016 (KOIN)
An aerial view of the Portland Superfund site, June 8, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Environmental Protection Agency finalized its plan for cleaning up the superfund site at the Portland Harbor much faster and considerably more expensive that previously suggested plans.

Kevin Parrett of the Oregon DEQ, January 6, 2017 (KOIN)
Kevin Parrett of the Oregon DEQ, January 6, 2017 (KOIN)

The site at the harbor was declared a superfund site 17 years ago. When the EPA released its proposed clean up plan last summer, it estimated a 23-year time frame for the project to be completed.

This final plan will do much more in much less time — 10 years less, in fact.

The EPA’s Cami Grandinetti told KOIN 6 News, “The risks at this site are real.”

But it will cost another $250 million, bringing the total cost to about $1 billion.

“We are pleased that the EPA has released its plan for the Portland Harbor cleanup. The City is committed to a clean river and is prepared to lead in building coalitions and partnerships to get this cleanup done right and done as soon as possible. This work is going to be done locally and it’s our priority to have it done by local workers. The time to act is now.” — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Nick Fish

Kevin Parrett of the Oregon DEQ admitted $1 billion is “a lot of money,” but said the extra money goes toward “more contained sediments being dredged out of the river and more acreage either being dredged or capped.”

A map of the Super fund site (EPA)
A map of the Super fund site (EPA)

This final plan calls for the removal of more than 3 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments. The EPA said that will further reduce the health risks to people, fish and wildlife sooner.

They will now dredge or cap a total of 365 acres instead of 200 acres of polluted soil at the bottom of the river. When it’s done in about 13 years, the contamination-related cancer risk will be reduced 100 times.

Cami Grandinetti of the EPA, January 6, 2017 (KOIN)
Cami Grandinetti of the EPA, January 6, 2017 (KOIN)

“Our goal is to very quickly move this river back into productive use for industry, for people and for wildlife that live in the area,” Grandinetti said.

But it will be several more years before the cleanup begins along the 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River. They need to re-assess exactly where the contamination of hot spots are, and polluters who are paying for this need to agree on exactly who owes how much.

“Realistically,” Parrett said, “breaking ground is 3 to 5 years away.”