An update as reported in the Environmental News Service 12/31/2023
PORTLAND, Oregon, December 31, 2023 (ENS) – People who eat fish that live year-round in Oregon’s Lower Willamette River are taking a big risk, as these fish contain levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls high enough to harm health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been warning for decades.
In November, the Justice Department added two settlements in federal court reflecting agreements among Tribal, state and federal natural resource trustees and over 20 potentially responsible parties, PRPs, to clean up what is now the Portland Harbor Superfund Site, designated in the year 2000. Past settlement agreements are online here.
The Portland Harbor Superfund site reached a key milestone on January 6, 2017 when the Environmental Protection Agency released its Record of Decision, the final plan for cleanup.
The Portland Harbor Superfund site is a 10-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River between the Broadway Bridge and the southern tip of Sauvie Island.
Approximately 150 parties are considered potentially responsible for the contamination, including some of the largest corporations in the United States, even one – Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. now doing business as Radius Recycling – that has been recognized for its environmental and climate action work.
One of the 150 potentially responsible parties is Schnitzer Steel Industries, which this year rebranded as Radius Recycling, in the business of buying and selling recycled metals around the world. In November, TIME magazine named the company to the inaugural TIME100 Climate List, which aims to recognize 100 innovative leaders working to expedite climate action. Earlier this year, Radius was named the Most Sustainable Company in the World by Corporate Knights and included on TIME’s List of the 100 Most Influential Companies of 2023.
Other polluters named in the Portland Harbor Superfund site cleanup agreements already filed in court are:
- – Daimler Trucks North America;
- – Vigor Industrial, the largest ship repair and modernization operation in the region;
- – Cascade General, which owns and operates Portland Shipyard;
- – NW Natural, a natural gas distributor;
- – Arkema Inc., a chemical manufacturer based near Paris, France;
- – Bayer Crop Science Inc., a German multinational corporation which produces herbicides, and insecticides that the 2020 EPA Administrative Settlement court documents linked to “cancer risks and noncancer health hazards from exposures to a set of chemicals in sediments, surface water, groundwater seeps, and fish tissue from samples collected at the Site.”
- – General Electric Company, a New York company that has polluted surface water, groundwater, sediment, and fish tissue with 64 contaminants of concern, including PCBs, PAHs, dioxins and furans, as well as DDT and its metabolites DDD and DDE (collectively, DDX);
- – oil companies Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Kinder Morgan Liquids Terminals LLC, McCall Oil and Chemical Corporation, Phillips 66 Company, and Shell Oil Company, Company, BP Products North America Inc., and ExxonMobil Corporation;
- – towboating and barging company Brix Maritime
- – Union Pacific Railroad Company
- – FMC Corporation, an American herbicide and fungicide manufacturer based in Pennsylvania