How Does the Portland Harbor Compare to Other Superfund Sites

How does the Portland Harbor compare to other Superfund sites?



Duwamish River (Seattle, Washington)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed the Lower Duwamish River--a five-mile stretch through South Seattle--as a federal Superfund site in 2001.


The key issues of the Lower Duwamish include:

*     The Duwamish sediments contain a “toxic stew” of industrial carcinogens like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); oil and other hydrocarbons; mercury, lead, and other heavy metals; dioxin; pesticides; arsenic; and even raw sewage.

*     PCBs are found in nearly all salmon in the River.

*     Many of these pollutants have the potential to pose serious health risks by building up in the tissues of fish and shellfish, and passing through the food chain to eagles, seals, Orcas, and people. People who regularly eat fish and crab from the River are at the greatest risk through their diet. Concentrated toxins also occur in some Duwamish river-bottom mud and people should avoid daily contact.


While thousands of salmon still return to the river and restoration efforts are slowly rebuilding pockets of habitat, historical and ongoing pollution threatens a full recovery. Because of the serious health concerns, EPA is requiring extensive studies of the risks to people, fish and wildlife and will require the major contributors to the pollution to pay for its cleanup.


The cleanup process on the Duwamish Superfund Site is currently further ahead than the Portland Harbor Site, likely due to the shorter length of river to be studied. The PRPs submitted a Draft Feasibility Study to the EPA on Oct. 15, 2010.  To visit the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition's website, click here.


Hudson River (New York City, New York)


General Electric (GE) manufacturing facilities at Hudson Falls and Fort Edward discharged between 209,000 pounds (95,000 kg) and 1,300,000 pounds (590,000 kg) of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) into the river from 1947 to 1977. The PCBs caused extensive contamination of fish in the river. The toxicchemicals also accumulated in sediments that settled to the river bottom[1]


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has listed various portions of the Hudson as having impaired water quality due to PCBs, cadmium, and other toxic compounds. Hudson River tributaries with impaired water quality (not necessarily the same pollutants as the Hudson main stem) are Mohawk River, Dwaas Kill, Schuyler Creek, Saw Mill River, Esopus Creek, Hoosic River, Quaker Creek, and Batten Kill. Many lakes in the Hudson drainage basin are also listed.[2]


In 1976, the (NYSDEC) banned all fishing in the Upper Hudson due to health concerns with PCBs.[32][33] In 1983, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared a 200-mile (322-km) stretch of the river, from Hudson Falls to New York City, to be a Superfund site requiring cleanup. GE began sediment dredging operations to clean up the PCBs on May 15, 2009.[3]

To read an academic article about the effect that the Hudson River Superfund cleanup will have on future cleanups, such as Portland Harbor, click here.

While this site is much larger than the Portland Harbor site, the cleanup on the Hudson is in a sense more straight-forward.  The primary contaminant in the Hudson River Superfund Site is PCBs, which can all be dealt with using similar cleanup technologies, whereas the Portland Harbor Superfund Site has at least four primary contaminants of concern, and therefore requires a broader range of cleanup technologies.