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Willamette Cove Cleanup Plan: 3 things to know

On March 31, 2021, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued the final cleanup plan for the Willamette Cove Upland. Willamette Cove is a 3,000-foot long property along the east bank of the Willamette River just north of the Steel Bridge. Historically used as a cooperage (barrel-making), lumber mill and dry dock, the site has extensive residual contamination.

Willamette Cove during its industrial phase in 1923 (left), and how it looks today (right)

DEQ has determined partial removal of contaminated soil, with a containment area for the remainder, will protect human health and the environment. Additionally, DEQ added a contingency remedy that will provide Metro flexibility as they finalize their planning for the site. The contingency remedy allows Metro to choose to move more contaminated material off-site and shrink the consolidation area. Read the final cleanup plan.

What does this really mean for the future of the upland area? Here are three things you need to know:

  1. The final cleanup plan protects human health and the environment. The plan requires the removal of “hot spots,” or elevated concentrations of contamination and containment of remaining soil contamination. This approach will ensure people and animals are not exposed to harmful contamination.

DEQ reviewed and considered over 180 comments, which touched on a wide variety of issues, such as how much soil is removed, seismic resiliency, and the need for cleanup to happen soon. You can read DEQ’s response to these comments online.

So what’s next?

Next steps, in preparation for cleanup, include a final, large-scale soil sample collection effort to confirm the depth of excavation necessary to achieve cleanup goals. DEQ will also use this data to develop final plans for soil containment and off-site disposal. 

Timing for completing the cleanup of the upland is closely linked to the Portland Harbor Superfund in-water cleanup work, led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This work will impact the riverbank and, thus, the upland remedy. DEQ and EPA are coordinating closely on this work along with other federal, state, and local agency partners and the community to make sure this cleanup happen in sync.

For more information on this project, go to

– Lauren Wirtis, public affairs specialist

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