DEQ community outreach and soil sampling event in Cathedral Park a success

After eight months of conversations with the community, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has made progress towards addressing soil contamination and protecting community health in Cathedral Park. DEQ, the Oregon Health Authority and City of Portland staff were out in the park for three days in mid-May talking to community members about soil sampling and cleanup work in the park as part of the N. Bradford Street Cleanup Project.

A person in a high-viz vest is taking soil samples in the park by pushing a long metal object into the ground to pull out the sample.

• 5 community meetings
• 73 survey responses
• 4 signs installed
• 24 hours of community outreach
• 12 sampling areas

The N. Bradford Street Cleanup Project is addressing existing contamination in and around the railroad tracks near the former Peninsula Iron Works foundry. In response to community concerns, DEQ and agency partners have installed signs near the tracks advising people to stay on the path to avoid any exposure to the contamination.

The sampling event in May focused on parts of Cathedral Park near the existing contamination. These soil samples will tell DEQ whether any of that contamination has moved around. DEQ took 50 sample in each of 12 different areas. DEQ expects to get the raw data back in late June, and will meet with the community in late summer to discuss the results. (Get on the email list to be notified about the meeting!)

The contamination at the heart of all this work is called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. PCBs were historically used as coolants and lubricants, but were banned in 1977 due to their toxic impacts on human health and persistence in the environment. The levels of PCBs do not present a short-term threat to public health, but more sampling is necessary to make sure there is no risk of long-term health effects for someone who is regularly exposed to the soil in this area.

DEQ has also begun the official cleanup process. This starts by identifying what parties might be responsible for the contamination – DEQ has identified Peninsula Iron Works and Union Pacific Railroad. Next, those parties must do additional soil sampling to determine how far out the contamination goes. If they keep finding contamination, they’ll expand their sampling area outwards.

This iterative approach is typical for a cleanup project, but DEQ knows how much community members care about Cathedral Park and wanted to get answers about park areas sooner. DEQ sought and obtained funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield grant to do the sampling work.

If you want to get involved in this work you can:

Thank you to our community partners. We couldn’t do this without you.

– Lauren Wirtis, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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