The Port of Portland has concerns about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's long-awaited cleanup plan for the Superfund site in the Willamette River.
The Port is a large landowner in the polluted area and, like the industrial users and the City of Portland, will be on the hook for a share of clean-up costs.
When the EPA announced its $750 million plan on June 8—16 years after naming Portland Harbor a Superfund site—environmentalists blasted it, saying the remedy was little more than letting nature take its course, diluting and burying the toxic sludge left on the river bottom by more than of industrial processes.
The Port's frustration is different: It thinks the EPA's proposal is too broad, doesn't carefully target the most polluted spots, and is overly optimistic in its cost projections.
Port deputy director Curtis Robinhold shared his agency's concerns today with federal regulators.
Here are the highlights:
(1) The plan does not adequately inform Portlanders about the true costs and benefits of different cleanup options. While we were intrigued by the more than $600 million drop in the cost of EPA’s preferred remedy, a closer look left us perplexed. Costs dropped, but there was little actual change in the plan for cleanup. We are concerned that EPA’s costs are overly optimistic, meaning the public is not informed about the true higher anticipated cost of the cleanup or the benefits that different cleanup alternatives would achieve. The cost to clean up Portland Harbor is significant at a time when our city and region are facing many critical affordability issues.
(2) Cleanup goals should be realistic. The Portland Harbor Superfund site is very large, covering 10 miles of the Lower Willamette River. It is the home to Oregon’s largest seaport, directly employing 30,000 people, in addition to being a home for wildlife and recreation. EPA sets its cleanup targets for the entire site, rather than recognizing that the risks aren’t the same across all 10 miles. Cleanup goals should be more site-specific, so we ensure they are actually effective and achievable in an urban waterway.
(3) EPA should empower us with the flexibility to get cleanup moving forward. We have been very active in addressing the legacy contamination in Portland Harbor and believe we can implement cleanups that will reach EPA’s pollution reduction targets and do it in a cost-effective way. In order to do that, EPA must provide us the flexibility to pursue other, equally protective approaches at our key sites within the Harbor.
The EPA's plan and a link to to opportunity to comment can be found here. The comment period closes Aug. 8.