Portland Tribune: Divvying up the Superfund cleanup

By Steve Law

“As a general concept, I don’t mind the idea of breaking it down into operable units, so that work can be done effectively in one place,” says Jim Robison, chairman of the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group, EPA’s officially designated citizens panel. The idea of breaking the 10-mile site into smaller Superfund projects has long been discussed, Robison says.

However, he adds, “I wouldn’t want that to be an avenue for them to do less of an effective cleanup.”

DEQ understands the terrain better than the EPA, but it also has “close relationships with the industries along the river,” Robison says. “They might not be inclined to crack down” as much as the EPA, he says.

Travis Williams, executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper, suspects the Port of Portland and NW Natural are motivated by self-interest rather than what’s best for the river.

“The Port of Portland has continually worked against the EPA in this process,” Williams says. “At this point, it’s more gamesmanship by the Port of Portland to get something they can control. I think proposals of this type can be dangerous because they are clearly angling for something that is less expensive,” he says.

All along, there’s been a tug between the state DEQ and the federal EPA for how the project should be managed, Williams says.

“I think the state has been angling; they really want to implement parts of this cleanup,” Williams says. But the EPA has a lot more expertise in managing toxic cleanups in water, he says.