Diverse coalition condemns EPA’s Portland Harbor cleanup plan Group urges action at cleanPDXharbor.org
Portland, OR— A coalition of diverse community groups held a press conference Friday to condemn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site. The plan, proposed on June 8th, would leave 92 percent of the 11-mile stretch of the Willamette River toxic to people and wildlife indefinitely.
The Portland Harbor Community Coalition (PHCC), a group that represents Native American, Latino, immigrant and refugee, African American, and houseless communities, outlined their opposition to the plan in front of the Portland Building, where the EPA held its first public comment session of the 90-day comment period. The speakers voiced concern about the disproportionate impact the toxic river has on communities of color and low-income groups.
The EPA’s Proposed Cleanup Plan, which took 16 years to develop at a cost of $52 million to taxpayers, is leaving only 90 days for impacted communities to comment. PHCC, the Audubon Society of Portland, and other groups are urging the EPA to extend this period to 120 days.
Rahsaan Muhammad, a PHCC organizer, argued the EPA’s proposal aligns too closely with the plan advocated by the polluters themselves. “A plan that doesn’t hold the polluters accountable is unacceptable,” said Rahsaan Muhammad of Collective Care. “Companies that collectively make billions of dollars a year and have dumped their waste in the river at the expense of human beings — Bayer CropScience, Chevron, Gunderson, Exxon, BP, Shell, Schnitzer Steel, Toyota, the US Navy — should pay their fair share. They are not paying their fair share.”
The PHCC, along with over a dozen groups, are advocating for a more thorough cleanup process.
“The proposed plan leaves toxins in the river. Allowing these toxins to remain in the river to be covered up or washed down to the Columbia River is unacceptable, and even more than unacceptable, it is a violation of our human rights and it is a violation of the Yakama Nation's treaty rights,” said Rose Longoria, the Yakama Nation Fisheries, Regional Superfund Cleanup Projects Coordinator.
"Yakama Nation and all people have the right to clean healthy fish that are safe to eat,” Longoria continued. “Our treaty rights are not only the right to take fish from the rivers, but for the right of those fish to be clean, healthy fish.”
The coalition plans to continue pressuring the EPA throughout the 90-day public comment period, which ends on September 8th. There are three more public comment sessions throughout June and July, and the group is urging people to provide their comments online at cleanPDXharbor.org.
Portland Harbor Community Coalition
About Portland Harbor Community Coalition
In response to a lack of effective outreach to marginalized communities, PHCC is launching a campaign to reach impacted communities, in partnership with Yakama Nation. The coalition will conduct extensive public outreach during the comment period this summer, with the goal of influencing the EPA’s final decision on the plan. EPA is expected to make a decision by the end of 2016. The group is collecting comments at www.cleanupportlandharbor.org. For more information about PHCC, visit www.ourfutureriver.org.
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