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New Delays in Portland Harbor Superfund Cleanup

The Portland Harbor Superfund site cleanup in Oregon has been hit with yet another delay.

Portland Business Journal reports that a key deadline for the cleanup plan has been pushed back by at least another year. Local businesses, which could end up paying as much as $2 billion to clean up the toxic waterway, were expecting to learn the details of a “proposed cleanup plan” sometime this year.

Estimated Start Date: 2016

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now says the proposal will not be completed until next year. In the world of Superfund cleanups, such a delay could mean that this one won’t start until at least 2016. Local businesses had hoped to begin work by early 2015.

Barbara Smith, a spokeswoman for the Lower Willamette Group of waterfront businesses that will pay for the cleanup, said that “no one wants this project to move forward more than [us].”

To date, the Group has spent more than $125 million on sampling, analysis and oversight in connection with the Superfund site. Smith told the Journal that her group also pays around $3 million to cover labor costs of the EPA and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

EPA Blamed

The delay is being blamed on the EPA, which is still finishing a remedial investigation and feasibility study. Both of these must be completed before any cleanup plan may proceed.

“Our current focus it to ensure we have sound technical documents upon which we can propose a cleanup plan for public review,” noted EPA spokesman Mark MacIntire.

“Working together on these documents takes time, but we firmly believe it’s well worth extra investment to get all perspectives as we move forward,” he added.

The area to be cleaned up covers a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River running between Broadway Bridge and Sauvie Island. For decades, polluting industries dumped waste directly into the river.

Sources:

“Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup faces new delays” Andy Giegerich, Portland Business Journal; April 3, 2014 (http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/2014/04/portland-harbor-superfund-clean-up-faces-new.html?page=all)

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