Portland Harbor is a heavily industrialized stretch of the Willamette River, extending from Portland’s Broadway Bridge to Sauvie Island. Due to decades of industrial activity, some of the sediment, or mud, in the river and along the riverbank is contaminated with pollutants, including PCBs, dioxins and other potentially harmful chemicals. Work to clean up Portland Harbor has been going on for decades, so it is a good time to get back to basics and review some of the most important facts about the Portland Harbor Superfund Site:
The Superfund is in the river bottom. The area designated as a Superfund site is literally the bottom of the Willamette River, bank to bank, from the Broadway Bridge to Sauvie Island. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the lead agency for investigating and cleaning up contaminated sediment in the river. DEQ supports and collaborates with EPA to ensure this work corresponds with Oregon’s cleanup requirements. But, overall, Superfund = EPA lead agency.
It will be kept clean by controlling sources of contamination on land. DEQ is the lead agency for overseeing the cleanup of properties located on the banks of the river, called upland sites. These sites may be sources of pollution to the river, so cleaning them up is crucial for preventing ongoing and future contamination. Upland = DEQ.
Cleanup plans for upland sites are based on their intended use. DEQ is responsible for approving the cleanup plans that address contamination on upland sites. First, the property owner decides how they’re going to use their property (continue current operations, redevelop a vacant site, etc.). Based on that use, DEQ determines what needs to be done to protect human health and the environment.
Don’t eat the fish. The primary threat to human health is eating contaminated fish that live in this stretch of the river, such as bass, carp and catfish. See Oregon Health Authority’s fish advisory.
The cleanup is good for wildlife. The sediment cleanup will also address risks to animals living in the river such as juvenile lamprey, river otters and birds of prey.
Now that you know the basics, stay tuned for more articles about Portland Harbor. You can stay involved and up-to-date by joining the GovDelivery listserv for Portland Harbor where you can receive text or email updates.
At around 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, the 38-foot Tug Nova was discovered sunken in the Columbia River, approximately 10 miles upriver of the McNary Dam near Umatilla.
During the night, the vessel broke loose from its moorings due to high winds. Those winds pushed it about three-quarters of a mile where it sank. The vessel was holding 750 gallons of diesel fuel and approximately 50 gallons of lubricating oil when it went down.
A Unified Command is overseeing the response and is comprised of representatives from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the tugboat owner, HME Construction.
5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020
Tug Nova was lifted safely from the river this evening, after an entire day of on-water operations.
The 750 gallons of diesel remained contained inside the tug’s fuel tank. About a gallon of a heavy oil released inside the containment area during crane operations, and was quickly removed from the water with absorbent booms.
Tug Nova by the numbers:
750 gallons of diesel fuel inside fuel tank and about 50 gallons of lubricating oil.
3 locations with containment boom: around tug, upriver, downriver.
3 oils spill response vessels on-water during tug removal.
Huge thanks to all the responders who worked tirelessly these past several days to bring Tug Nova out of the Columbia River safely.
11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020
The current estimate on pulling the tug from the river is midday tomorrow, contingent on the barge and crane arriving on time and all going as planned. It will take several hours to pull the tug from the water. The tug’s fuel tank is secured within the engine room, and risk of fuel release is unlikely.
Responders will have an abundance of precautionary measures in place during the tugboat removal. This includes containment boom deployed at strategic locations in accordance with Geographic Response Plans and response vessels standing by.
Unified Command continues working closely with cultural resource trustees to ensure any cultural resources that may be in the area are not inadvertently disturbed.
2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020
Responders are maintaining containment booms around the tug, implementing plans to protect fish, wildlife, human health and other cultural and environmental resources both up and downriver of the sunken vessel, and staging the area to bring in a barge and crane tomorrow or on Thursday.
A light sheen is present on the river’s surface, which has been contained inside the boom currently deployed around the sunken vessel. Responders are recovering as much of the oil sheen as possible using sorbent pads.
The sunken tug has a 3-foot rupture in its hull, but the rupture has not affected any of the vessel’s fuel tanks. The rupture is presumed to be the result of damage the vessel sustained when it broke free of its moorings on Sunday night in heavy winds.
Tomorrow or Thursday, depending on arrival time of the barge and crane, responders plan to lift the tug off the river bottom with a crane, then load it onto the barge for transport back to a Vancouver shipyard for repairs.
There have been no reports of impacts to wildlife.
Unified Command is working closely with cultural resource trustees, including the the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office, to develop a salvage plan that will prevent any disturbance of cultural resources that may be on the river bottom or in the area.
Responders are conducting water sampling near the sunken vessel and approximately 10 miles downriver at the site of the City of Hermiston’s public water supply intake. There are no concerns of contamination at this time.
Responders have deployed 1,500 feet of boom in support of three pre-determined protection strategies; an additional 5,000 feet of hard boom is en route to the incident location and can be deployed if needed. Finally, 400 feet of boom is in place around the sunken vessel itself and approximately 500 feet of boom will be pre-staged as a precaution at the City of Hermiston public water supply intake, about 10 miles downstream of the incident location.
6:00 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, 2020
Divers covered the Nova’s fuel vents this afternoon and the vessel is not actively leaking. The tugboat reportedly has about 750 gallons of diesel on board and is completely submerged.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are overseeing operations and investigating to determine if any fuel has been released. Responders are deploying containment boom this afternoon and evening around the tugboat.
A crane is scheduled to arrive on site Wednesday to lift the vessel out of the water.
Responders suspect the tugboat broke loose from its mooring Sunday night due to strong winds, which pushed it about three-quarters of a mile upriver. There was no one on board when the vessel began drifting. The tugboat is called Tug Nova and is owned by HME Construction.
Cleanup crews finished excavating petroleum contaminated soil Thursday at the site of a fuel spill along the banks of the North Santiam River near Idanha – east of Salem and Detroit Lake on OR 22. The spill resulted from a tanker truck crash on Feb. 16 at milepost 63.
In all, cleanup crews dug up and hauled away about 6,200 tons of contaminated soil. Dump trucks took the soil to landfills in Corvallis and Eugene. Booms and other oil absorbent material will be in place, and tended regularly, as long as a sheen is present on the river. The booms will also be checked after storms to make sure that they are secure and that any additional discharged fuel will be caught and removed. About 700 feet of hard and sorbent boom are in the river at the spill site. The Unified Command – consisting of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Space Age Fuel – consulted with natural resource agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and has implemented an erosion control plan to keep sediments resulting from the cleanup out of the river.
Water sampling data shows that concentrations of petroleum chemicals in the North Santiam River are far below federal safe drinking water levels, except in the immediate vicinity of the spill site. Concentrations are declining and there has been no reported impact to downstream water users, and no water intakes were closed. The nearest drinking water intake is about 25 miles downstream, below Detroit Lake. Crews will continue to monitor water quality in the river and report to DEQ regularly, and will increase monitoring following storms.
A nearly 30-mile stretch of OR 22 remains closed in both directions as the road is repaired and repaved. Crews are repaving the highway Friday. The road is expected to open late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. Check TripCheck.com for the current road status.
The closure stretches from the town of Idanha to the highway’s junction with U.S. 20, east of the crash site. During the closure, traffic between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon should take alternate routes.
The spill occurred at about 8 a.m. Feb. 16, when a double tanker truck carrying 10,600 gallons of gasoline and diesel overturned, releasing an estimated 7,800 gallons of petroleum products into the soil at the crash site.
DEQ, EPA and Space Age Fuel, the owner of the tanker, are overseeing the cleanup. Most of the cleanup crews are demobilizing Friday, with the exception of the water quality monitoring team and boom tenders. The team is sampling river water and assessing the riverbank daily, and monitoring groundwater through test wells installed at the spill site.
Agencies central to response support include: the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA, as well as Marion County, the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of the Interior and several downstream municipalities.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an emergency order to help farmers, ranchers, residents and businesses recover after recent floods caused significant damage to an estimated 300 structures in Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties.
DEQ’s order comes alongside Governor Kate Brown’s state of emergency declaration for the same three counties, which cited ongoing public health and safety risks from buildings damaged by the floods.
The order temporarily suspends several environmental rules and fees to expedite the cleanup of flood debris and ensure ongoing protection of people and the environment.
Specifically, the order:
Suspends DEQ fees and rules related to residential asbestos project notifications and accumulation of asbestos waste. The order does not suspend rules related to safe disposal of asbestos waste. Find information about asbestos disposal requirements on DEQ’s Asbestos Information webpage.
Suspends DEQ fees associated with repairing septic (onsite) systems damaged by the floods in Union and Wallowa counties. Find more information on what to do with your septic system after a flood here.
Suspends DEQ fees associated with establishing temporary solid waste disposal sites. Contact your waste hauler to learn about temporary disposal options in your area.
Options for solid waste disposal:
Humbert Landfill, Pendleton Transfer Station and Hermiston Transfer Station. (Note: these sites cannot accept asbestos waste.)
Other regional landfills that can accept asbestos waste: Finley Buttes Landfill in Morrow County; Columbia Ridge and Chemical Waste Management of the Northwest landfills in Gilliam County; Walla Walla Landfill.
The temporary order expires June 1, 2020 for the asbestos program and Sept. 1, 2020 for solid waste and septic systems.
Federal, state and local responders continue to clean up spilled fuel and contaminated soil along the banks of the North Santiam River near Idanha – east of Salem and Detroit Lake on OR 22 – following a crash on Feb. 16.
The agencies responsible for managing the response are monitoring water quality in the area of the tanker crash. Latest water sampling data from the North Santiam River following the crash and spill shows petroleum-related chemicals are present at levels that decrease with distance downstream from the site. Except for at the crash site, all water samples contained extremely low levels of petroleum-related chemicals, at concentrations far below safe drinking water levels. Petroleum contaminants in river water that may reach drinking water intakes downstream are expected to remain below regulatory standards. Communities closest to the spill pull drinking water from tributaries to the river and not the North Santiam itself. The nearest drinking water intake on the North Santiam is 25 miles downstream from the spill site and below Detroit Lake.
The agencies responsible for managing the response continue to monitor the nine surface water sample locations along the river daily. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Space Age Fuel, the owner of the tanker, are working closely with the Oregon Health Authority and downstream water providers to protect drinking water intakes and provide information to water supply systems.
Cleanup crews continue digging up and hauling away petroleum contaminated soil. On Wednesday, the cleanup crews were running 48 dump trucks so excavation and backfilling the roadway with clean soil is progressing quickly.
Crews are working 12-hour shifts to clean up the spill and prevent gasoline and diesel from entering the river. As of Wednesday, the crews had dug up and hauled away about 2,300 cubic yards of contaminated soil. Dump trucks are taking the contaminated soil to Coffin Butte Landfill near Corvallis.
The spill occurred at about 8 a.m. Feb. 16, when a double tanker truck carrying gasoline and diesel overturned, releasing an estimated 7,800 gallons of petroleum products into the soil at the crash site. Cleanup crews have recovered about 2,800 gallons of the spilled fuel. Booms and absorbent material are in place along the riverbank to catch fuel and remove spilled fuel for disposal.
A nearly 30-mile stretch of OR 22 remains closed in both directions. The closure stretches from the town of Idanha to the highway’s junction with U.S. 20, east of the crash site. The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates that the entire portion of OR 22 will remain closed until at least Friday evening. Traffic between Willamette Valley and Central Oregon should take alternate routes. Check TripCheck.com for the latest traffic conditions.
ODOT and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are assisting with the response. Other involved agencies include the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released its 2018 Oregon Air Toxics Monitoring Summary for six locations around the state, including The Dalles, La Grande and four sites in the Portland-metro area. The goal was to determine concentrations in certain communities, including urban and rural areas, and compare the results. DEQ will use the information to track pollution and determine ways to reduce air toxics in Oregon. Data showed that no air toxics were found at levels that would pose an immediate health risk.
“With resources provided by Oregon’s Legislature, DEQ has been able to set up and operate these air toxics monitoring sites and analyze an enormous amount of data,” said Lori Pillsbury, division administrator, Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division. “This gives us insights and opportunities to compare air quality in a variety of locations.”
“In addition to sharing this information with the public, DEQ can use it to instruct and update our strategies for decreasing air toxics in Oregon’s environment,” Pillsbury said.
DEQ’s Lab collected approximately 60 samples at each site – one every six days – for at least a year. The data was taken between 2016 and 2018. The six locations monitored included:
SE 45th and Harney (Portland-metro neighborhood)
Cully (Portland-metro neighborhood)
Gresham (Portland-metro neighborhood)
Humboldt (Portland-metro neighborhood)
La Grande (North Hall St. and East N Ave.)
The Dalles (Wasco County Library)
The monitors tested for 109 pollutants in ambient – or surrounding — air. Of these, 28 have air toxics benchmarks, known officially as Ambient Benchmark Concentrations. Only seven pollutants were above their benchmarks. Benchmarks are concentrations at which no harm should come to the health of even sensitive populations, including children, the elderly or people with pre-existing health conditions. Air pollutants come from various sources in a community. As such, monitoring and results were not assigned to a specific facility or source.
Additional details include the following:
Six air toxics were found at levels above their benchmarks at all monitoring locations – arsenic, benzene, carbon tetrachloride, naphthalene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. That means these pollutants are present at levels above benchmarks in both urban and rural areas.
Ethylbenzene measured at levels above its benchmark at three of the monitoring sites in the Portland-metro area: SE 45th and Harney, Cully and Gresham. It was found at levels below its benchmark in The Dalles, La Grande and Humboldt.
The average levels of arsenic were higher in the Portland-metro area sites than in The Dalles and La Grande, which are more rural.
Benzene was above its benchmark at every site, likely due to vehicle emissions.
The average levels of three air toxics – naphthalene, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde – were higher at The Dalles monitoring site compared to all other sites.
DEQ selects annual air toxics monitoring locations based on several factors, including sources of pollution, number of pollutants, relative toxicity, lack of information, community factors and agency program and regional needs. Monitors are currently situated in Eugene, Medford and La Grande, as well as Cully, Hillsboro and Tualatin in the Portland-metro. The next air toxics monitoring report will be released late this year and will include data from samples collected through December 2019.
Cleanup crews Tuesday are digging up and hauling away petroleum contaminated soil following a tanker truck spill Sunday on OR 22 east of Salem and Detroit Lake. The tanker, owned by Space Age Fuel, crashed at about 8 a.m. Sunday near milepost 63, alongside the North Santiam River. About 7,800 gallons of the about 10,600 gallons of fuel in the tanker spilled. Cleanup crews have recovered about 2,800 gallons of the fuel. Booms and absorbent material are in place along the riverbank to catch fuel and remove spilled fuel for disposal. Vacuum tank trucks are on standby at the site to also remove fuel if needed.
A workforce comprised of responders and contractors – as well as the responsible party, the tanker’s owner – is currently working 12-hour shifts to clean up the spill and prevent gasoline and diesel from entering the river: Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Space Age Fuel, Oregon Department of Transportation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other involved and assisting agencies include the Oregon Department of Emergency Management, Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Department of Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
DEQ, EPA and Space Age Fuel continue to work closely with the Oregon Health Authority and downstream water providers to protect drinking water intakes. The responding agencies are sampling the river at the site and downstream of the crash site, and protecting the water remains a priority.
Excavators so far have dug up about 737 cubic yards of soil for transfer offsite. Trucks are currently hauling the soil to the Short Mountain Landfill in Eugene. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a shoreline fish and wildlife impact assessment this morning with contractor support and results are expected later Tuesday.
Tuesday’s focus is to remove contaminated soil and minimize further potential fuel from entering the river. The cleanup response Tuesday includes several pieces of heavy equipment, including excavators, bulldozers and about 30 dump trucks equipped with trailers.
A nearly 30-mile stretch of OR 22 remains closed in both directions. The closure stretches from the town of Idanha to the highway’s junction with U.S. 20, east of the crash site. ODOT estimates that the entire portion of OR 22 will remain closed until at least Friday evening so ODOT recommends that traffic between Willamette Valley and Central Oregon use alternate routes.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality continues to oversee cleanup and monitoring near the site of a Feb. 16 truck crash and fuel release on Highway 22 about 60 miles east of Salem.
Of the 10,600 gallons of fuel on board the double tanker, 7,871 gallons spilled and the remaining fuel was recovered. Fuel is discharging from the bank of the North Santiam River and a sheen is visible for a few hundred feet downstream of the crash site.
Crews began excavating contaminated material this morning and will evaluate disposal options.
About 400 feet of hard boom and other absorbent materials are in the river to contain and collect fuel. DEQ will continue to monitor potential impacts to fish and wildlife at and downstream of the site. There have been no reports of impacts to drinking water supplies in the area.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s On-Scene Coordinator and contractors are providing the water sampling data for hydrocarbon by-products at two- and four-mile intervals in the North Santiam River downstream of the crash site.
Oregon Highway 22 will remain closed to through traffic from just west of Idanha to the junction with U.S. 20 (milepost 53-81) until at least Friday or Saturday of this week, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. This morning, ODOT was able to assess the damage and determined that it will take several days to remove contaminated soil and repair the road where the truck crashed.
An area of roadway about 600 feet long needs to be excavated and rebuilt. Motorists traveling to and from the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon can use U.S. 20 and OR 126E as alternative routes.
A tanker truck carrying more than 10,000 gallons of fuel overturned Sunday on Highway 22 about 60 miles east of Salem, spilling more than half of its load. An unknown amount was released into the North Santiam River, which provides drinking water for nearby communities and the city of Salem.
A hazardous materials team and emergency cleanup crew from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality were on the scene to pump remaining fuel out of the truck and to prevent more fuel from entering the river. The highway remains closed in both directions at milepost 63 as crews work to contain the site. The Oregon Department of Transportation advises motorists to avoid the area and find alternate routes until further notice.
According to reports the truck, owned by Space Age Fuel, was carrying a variety of fuels in two tanks. The trailer tank held 6,500 gallons of gasoline which has been released and the truck tank held 4,100 gallons of diesel. (Corrected to reflect vehicle and fuel handling.)
Preliminary indications are that all 6,500 gallons of the gasoline was spilled. Update: Crews recovered about 2,830 gallons of diesel by Sunday evening.
Fuel from the trailer tank was released into a roadside ditch and some seeped into the river.
Health officials are notifying downstream drinking water system providers of the spill.
Crews will continue to evaluate the extent of the spill and determine cleanup options.
Media Contacts: Harry Esteve, DEQ, 503-951-3856 Lou Torres, ODOT, 503-559-7118
Many structures and buildings in Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties, including lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, suffered significant damage from recent flooding. Debris from damaged structures can pose a threat to people and the environment if not handled safely.
Tips for safely handling renovation and demolition debris:
Use caution when working in or around any damaged building.
Keep children and pets away from debris, where they could be exposed to sharp objects, electric shock or hazardous material, including asbestos.
Always wear personal protective gear and clothing, including eye protection, gloves and boots.
Check with your insurance company before removing debris. The insurance company may be able to assist.
Disposing of waste
Disposal sites that are willing to accept flood debris but that cannot accept asbestos-containing materials are:
Umatilla County: Humbert Landfill, Pendleton Transfer Station and Hermiston Transfer Station.
Milton-Freewater: Milton-Freewater Landfill.
Union County: Transfer stations in Union, La Grande and Elgin.
Wallowa County: Ant Flat Landfill, transfer stations in Joseph, Lostine and Wallowa.
Other regional landfills that can accept asbestos containing materials are: Finley Buttes Landfill in Morrow County; Columbia Ridge and Chemical Waste Management of the Northwest landfills in Gilliam County (accepts household hazardous waste); Walla Walla Landfill.
Asbestos is in many building materials, and it is difficult to determine which ones. When asbestos is disturbed and improperly handled, tiny fibers are released into the air and may cause lung cancer and other illnesses. Paper masks and bandanas do not filter out asbestos fibers.
Flood water can make the air in your home unhealthy. This is because when things remain wet for more than two days, they usually get moldy. Inhaling mold can cause adverse health effects, including allergic reactions. Mold also can damage materials in your home. In addition, flood water may contain microorganisms, such as bacteria, or chemicals which may affect your health. (Info from the U.S. EPA.)
Check with the local fire department before conducting any open burning of construction materials. It is illegal to burn treated wood, asbestos, petroleum-based products, or anything that emits dense or noxious smoke.
Hazardous materials in the environment
If you encounter hazardous materials that may have been released into the environment during the flooding, immediately report the spill or release to the Oregon Emergency Response System (OERS) at 800-452-0311. These items could include labeled or unlabeled barrels or containers of pesticides, fertilizers, oil or other petroleum products. DEQ recommends not handling or attempting to dispose of these items on your own.
Household hazardous waste
Many homes contain small quantities of hazardous waste, including paints, stains, solvents, fuels, antifreeze, aerosols, cleaners, poisons, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, oil filters, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent tubes and bulbs, propane tanks, pool and spa chemicals, thermometers, and mercury thermostats and switches. Please follow all local, state, federal and tribal regulations.
Contact your local waste management company or the department responsible for waste collection in your area for information on household hazardous waste. DEQ is working with local providers and volunteer organizations to schedule special hazardous waste collection events in the counties affected by the floods, contact DEQ for more information.