Featuring Keith Johnson from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, Todd Bridges from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
and Mike Palermo, formerly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center.
Let's review: In 2000, a section of the lower Willamette River in and around downtown Portland was designated a Superfund site. As discussed in
earlier episodes of this One River, Many Voices series, the idea of a Superfund site is something of a misnomer. It's almost always sites, and
it is definitely that when it comes to the Willamette. Some 300 in total, and around 100 that are of immediate concern.
The next step in the Superfund process is what's called the Proposed Plan, where EPA provides its proposal for cleanup and invites public comment.
EPA's cleanup decision is called the Record of Decision, a document that lays out the cleanup process. For the Willamette site, the Proposed
plan is expected sometime in 2016, with the Record of Decision to follow. These things take time. There are three main approaches to
cleanup, and, as is so often the case when talking about the river and its future, that only sounds simple.
"For very large and complex sites, and Portland harbor would fall into that category I think, some combination of those three major approaches
is usually the best approach." So says Mike Palermo, who spent 35 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is now a consultant.
In this episode, host Jack McGowan talks with Palermo, Keith Johnson, from Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, and Todd Bridges, the U.S.
Army's Corps senior research scientist for environmental sciences, about the options going forward.
The key word, Bridges says, is "protectiveness."
"Is the remedy protective of human health and the environment?" Bridges says. "And there is a lot that goes into answering that question."
Rarely is one solution is the answer. For one area, dredging, the process of digging the contaminated sediment out of the river might work.
"But then a lot depends on whether that's partial dredging or what I would call full dredging," Palermo says.
At another site, capping might make the most sense. Capping is when you put suitable a protective covering materialclean sediment over top the
polluted sediment. "If you can separate animals and plants and humans from the contaminants themselves, then you can reduce exposure," Bridges says.
The third option is to allow the river to repair itself naturally or sometimes with a human boost in a process called enhanced monitored natural
recovery, allowing the river to cleanap the contaminated area itself by depositing sediment from cleaner upstream sources.
Within each option there are other options and new technologies. Within each site, there are challenges. There are between 10 and 12 miles of
Superfund site on the Willamette in Portland, and each contaminated area must be considered as part of the whole, and as its own problem.
McGowan likens it to a series of different roads all headed to the same destination—a cleaner, healthy Willamette River.