There’s some confusion about who’s supervising the cleanup in East Portland where the vacant Kmart on Northeast Sandy Boulevard erupted in flames last month, raining Frisbee-sized chunks of charred debris on houses, parks and schools.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality asked Prologis, the company planning to build a shipping warehouse on the property, to sign a voluntary cleanup agreement, but Prologis declined. “Our understanding is they are working with the mayor’s office on cleanup,” DEQ spokeswoman Susan Mills says in an email.
But the city says otherwise. “The city doesn’t have jurisdictional authority,” spokeswoman Jaymee Cuti says.
Prologis, meantime, says it didn’t enter a voluntary agreement because one isn’t required. Neither DEQ nor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found any asbestos in samples they’ve taken (Portland Parks & Recreation found the carcinogen in one of nine samples it took).
“This situation is not a hazardous substance cleanup event,” Prologis spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson said in an email.
But without an agreement, the public may have trouble learning what gets cleaned up, DEQ’s Mills says.
“Had a voluntary cleanup agreement been signed, it would have included a scope of work that DEQ would approve, and DEQ would have continued to be involved in engaging the community,” Mills says. “Since Prologis is doing the cleanup independently, it means we do not know the scope of what they will clean up, and DEQ is no longer at the decision-making table.”