EPA reaches major cleanup agreement for the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, 100 percent of site now in active engineering design phase
Settlement with businesses, federal, state, and local agencies for remedial design of the Swan Island Basin area brings the last and largest area into active cleanup work
PORTLAND – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized an agreement with 12 parties to develop detailed cleanup plans for the Swan Island Basin, completing a major milestone in the cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. This latest cleanup agreement represents nearly 25 percent of the site’s total cleanup area, and along with earlier agreements, brings 100 percent of the site’s areas requiring active cleanup into the remedial design phase of the Superfund cleanup process.
EPA and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are working with partners, including six tribes, stakeholders and 36 responsible parties to implement the 2017 Record of Decision to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, an approximately 10-mile stretch of the Lower Willamette River, in Portland, Oregon where approximately 370 acres of contaminated sediment are slated for active remediation to reduce health risks to people, fish, and wildlife.
“This agreement along with earlier settlements, shows a strong commitment to moving the cleanup of Portland Harbor forward,” said EPA Region 10 Acting Regional Administrator Michelle Pirzadeh. “The engineering design work now underway will lead to the active cleanup work, which will greatly improve the health of the river, reduce risks to people and the environment, and set the stage for the revitalization of the Lower Willamette River.”
This most recent settlement agreement, called an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent, requires the Responsible Parties to conduct “remedial design” work to develop a detailed cleanup implementation plan consistent with EPA’s 2017 Record of Decision. The signatories to the agreement include performing parties: Daimler Trucks North America LLC, Vigor Industrial LLC, Cascade General Inc., Shipyard Commerce Center LLC; and settling parties: Maritime Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, General Services Administration, Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Department of Defense (Department of the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers), State of Oregon (Department of State Lands), City of Portland, and Port of Portland.
The Swan Island Basin project area is among the major “hot spot” cleanup areas within the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, with high levels of contamination. Developing a detailed cleanup design for the 117-acre, mile-long area, is expected to take approximately four years, after which active cleanup will begin. The process will include a pre-design sampling investigation and report to understand the current extent of contamination and help determine the most effective cleanup technologies, consistent with the 2017 Record of Decision.
Since December 2019, 31 responsible parties have entered remedial design agreements for 11 project areas for in-water cleanup with EPA oversight. With these project areas, existing agreements, and areas where EPA is taking the initial lead, all the acres designated for active in-water remediation at the site are now in the remedial design phase of the cleanup process. Over the past year, working parties have made significant progress to complete remedial design, including a substantial amount of field work, design, and planning, bringing the site closer to active construction of the remedy.
In 2017, EPA issued a Record of Decision, or final cleanup plan, for the Portland Harbor Superfund Site. The river sediments, surface water, and the fish that reside in the harbor have high levels of PCBs, PAHs, dioxins/furans, DDT and other pesticides which present an unacceptable risk to people’s health, especially subsistence and tribal fishers, and to the environment. The cleanup will reduce people’s exposure to high levels of contaminants, make it safer for all but the most sensitive people to eat more fish from the river more often, and make it safer for people to play on the riverbanks and beaches. Active cleanup construction, including dredging, and capping, of contaminated sediments, is expected to take about 13 years.
As EPA’s partner in the Superfund cleanup, Oregon DEQ is working with property owners to investigate and clean up properties along the riverbank, called “upland sites” to reduce pollution sources to the river and the potential for re-contamination of the Harbor.
EPA works with Oregon DEQ to engage with communities, tribal nations, state and local governments, and other stakeholders. EPA strives to encourage community involvement in the cleanup through regular meetings with community leaders and the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group, quarterly public forums, listserv announcements, informational webinars, and other public input opportunities. EPA provides funding support to the Willamette River Advocacy Group through EPA’s technical assistance grant program.
Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for Remedial Design at the Swan Island Basin Project Area: https://semspub.epa.gov/src/document/10/100295661
EPA’s January 2021 Portland Harbor Site Updates Fact Sheet: https://semspub.epa.gov/work/10/100295085.pdf