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Portland Officials: The Superfund Cleanup Could Cost $1.5B

Posted on September 8, 2016

By James Cronin, Business Journal

The Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating the cost to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site by as much as 100 percent, according to Portland environmental services officials.

The City of Portland has submitted its comments on the EPA’s $746 million plan to decontaminate the polluted Portland Harbor Superfund site and other areas of the Willamette River.

In June, the EPA released its $746 million plan, opting for a combination of dredging and capping to remediate hundreds of year’s worth of pollution from the bottom of the Willamette River. Environmental groups and Native American tribes have objected to the plan because it would result in dredging only the most contaminated locations, letting the river’s natural flow address the rest.

Now, Portland officials are pointing out what they see as deficiencies in that plan. Here’s what Michael Jordan, director of environmental services for the city, had to say about the objections.

The city’s comments say the project could cost between 50 and 100 percent more than the $746 million EPA is estimating. Why? There are many costs not accounted for at all. Just for one example, the Department of State Lands requires a fee for just working in river, and by acres that fee will be substantial in this part of river, in the millions of dollars.

The Port of Portland and others involved have discussed a new idea to split the 10-mile Willamette River Superfund site into smaller portions that potentially responsible parties ready to roll up their sleeves and start cleaning up could tackle. What are your thoughts? We think it’s time for us to get in the river and start the cleanup. We believe we should be spending money on cleaning up the river and not on other study or feasibility plans. We know there are spots where sediments are contaminated. Want get to those as quickly as possible. If we wait for an agreement (among all 150 or so responsible parties) it could be years before we get started.

Do you have specific locations in mind? We’re focused on dealing with issues where Portlanders are exposed the most to contamination, like Willamette Cove and Swan Island Lagoon, where the public gets into the river swimming and fishing.

How much has the city spent already on the Superfund cleanup? The city has spent roughly $60 million (on studies and other costs) altogether over 16 years. A significant portion of the money we’ve spent … we believe are recoverable through the (responsible party) allocation process.

You did your own outreach to community members to solicit opinions on the project. What did you hear? The city got over 2,700 Portland responses. We heard some from community members that don’t want a confined contaminated materials disposal facility that was proposed at Terminal 4. The community said they didn’t want to see that. And dredged materials will need to be transported and that will create concerns in community. We want EPA to be specific about how that will be done.

Source: Business Journal

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