Take Action to Clean Up the Willamette Cove Superfund Site

We need your help to ensure that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) adopts the strongest possible cleanup option for the Willamette Cove Superfund Site.

Willamette Cove is a heavily contaminated 27-acre site owned by Metro, with approximately 3,000 feet of waterfront along the east bank of the Willamette River south of the St. Johns Bridge. Willamette Cove was purchased by Metro for use as a natural area and it is one of very few sites within the ten mile long, 2000+ acre Portland Harbor Superfund Area that is anticipated to have public access once the cleanup is completed. For years it has been fenced off from public use because of contamination with PCBs, Furans/ dioxins, lead, heavy metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and other contaminants, caused prior to Metro’s ownership.

DEQ is taking comments now through August 31 on cleanup alternatives for the uplands at Willamette Cove. Unfortunately DEQ’s preferred alternative is one which would remove only the most contaminated soils (hotspots), but consolidate the majority of the contaminated soil (as much as 23,000 cubic yards) on site by burying it underground beneath caps. DEQ’s approach would restrict future use of the site, including potentially limiting uses such as child play areas and picnic areas, and perpetuate ongoing risk of exposure over time. Given that Willamette Cove will be only one of a very few publicly accessible sites in Portland Harbor, we believe that it is critical the DEQ adopt a different alternative that minimizes leaving any soil which exceeds human health risk-based concentrations on site.

Take Action

Please send an email to DEQ by by 5 p.m. on Monday, August 31. See talking points below. 

An aerial photo of the Willamette Cove site, showing the Willamette River and the waterfront.
Photo by Travis Williams

Key Talking Points

  1. The cleanup of Willamette Cove must meet the highest possible standards for public and environmental health. Willamette Cove is one of only a few sites within the Portland Harbor Superfund Area that is anticipated to have public access (as a Metro natural area) once the cleanup is completed. It is critical that public and environmental health be prioritized at this site and that the site retain maximum flexibility in terms of future uses.
  2. DEQ should select Alternative 3b (Alternative Excavation and Offsite Disposal). Alternative 3b removes the vast majority of contamination from the Willamette Cove uplands while also protecting mature trees to the degree possible.
  3. DEQ should abandon its preferred alternative (4c) which would leave as much as 23,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils that exceed human and wildlife health risk levels onsite under caps. It would restrict future use of the site and perpetuate risk of releases and exposures in the future.
  4. The cost differential between Alternative 3b and DEQ’s preferred alternative is estimated at $2.8 million ($8.5 million versus $5.7 million). While this number is not insignificant, it is a relatively small differential given the increase in effectiveness, long-term reliability, site use flexibility and minimization of site use restrictions.
  5. Given future use of this site as a natural area with public access, the cleanup should achieve the highest possible standards. DEQ should not adopt a remedy that relies on perpetuating site restrictions, deed restrictions, and other institutional controls that have proven ineffective in the past and will limit that ability of this site to reach its maximum potential.

Thank you for speaking up for our river!