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Portland Harbor Cleanup Dispute Centers On Fish Consumption

July 31, 2012 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Bonnie Stewart


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  • Barge builder Gunderson LLC is a member of the Lower Willamette Group. credit: Cassandra Profita
Barge builder Gunderson LLC is a member of the Lower Willamette Group. | credit: Cassandra Profita | rollover image for more

Environmental regulators are in a dispute with industrial landowners about how to measure the health risks of eating fish from the Portland Harbor.

The clean-up is supposed to allow people to safely eat fish caught from that section of the Willamette River. The dispute is over how much fish people can be expected to consume.

The Lower Willamette Group includes the city and the Port of Portland, as well as a dozen businesses. Its members have been working on a clean-up plan for the Portland Harbor.

Barbara Smith is spokeswoman for the industrial landowners. She says the group’s clean-up plan is in line with what the EPA asked for.

“The fish consumption scenarios and rates that the Lower Willamette Group used were directed to us by EPA several years ago,” she said.

The harbor was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000.

The industrial landowners and the EPA now must begin discussions to resolve their dispute.

Willamette Riverkeeper’s Travis Williams worries that the process will further delay the cleanup of the harbor.

“And you know they could step up and do the right thing and say right thing and just say look, instead of taking an adversarial position with every little thing that the EPA asks of us, we’re going to step up and do the right thing for the Willamette and for the people who want to eat fish from the river,” he said.

Estimates of fish consumption will determine how extensive and costly the clean up should be. The plan will involves removing and capping sediment at the bottom of the river. The sediment has been contaminated by decades of industrial activity.

The U.S. EPA declined to comment for this story.

© 2012 OPB
Portland Harbor superfund cleanwater water pollution Environment Protection Agency Superfund
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