On Sept. 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it would propose adding Bradford Island to the National Priorities List, which would make it a Superfund site. The listing comes after DEQ, Washington Ecology and the Yakama Nation wrote joint messages in 2019
to the EPA seeking to have the site placed on the National Priorities List.
Read DEQ’s full press release.
DEQ, Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Ecology, and others have been working for years with the Corps to clean up the site, but adequate progress has not been made in a timely manner. Listing Bradford Island as an EPA Superfund site will help provide consistent federal funding and other requirements that are expected to re-energize cleanup of the site.
Bradford Island lies within the Bonneville Dam complex, near Cascade Locks on the Columbia River. DEQ has been working with the US Army Corps of Engineers under a voluntary cleanup agreement, to evaluate and oversee cleanup of various contamination sources on the island.
From 1942 until 1982, the Army Corps of Engineers used the east end of the island as a landfill and dumped electrical components and other debris in the river near the northeast corner of the island. Some of this equipment contained polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, which are highly toxic, do not break down readily and can be stored and build up in the bodies of resident fish.
The agency removed PCB-containing electrical equipment from the river in 2000 and 2002. The last cleanup activity at the site was in 2007 when the Army Corps of Engineers removed PCB-contaminated sediments from the river. The most recent sampling, in 2011, of sediments, clams and smallmouth bass indicate that PCB concentrations are still too high to protect fish living nearby, and people who eat the fish. Of particular note, PCBs in smallmouth bass were found at concentrations as high as 183,140 parts per billion. A safe level for human consumption of fish is less than 1 part per billion.
Due to these high concentrations of PCBs, the Oregon Health Authority and the Washington State Department of Health recommend that no one eat resident fish caught in the waters extending from Bradford Island upstream to the mouth of Ruckel Creek, approximately one mile north of Bonneville Dam.
The Army Corps prepared a remedial investigation report in June 2012 (see below) to document what contamination remains at the site, where it is located, and the risk is presents to people and animals. The report concluded that additional cleanup work was needed.
In August 2017, the Corps completed a feasibility study (an evaluation of cleanup alternatives) for the four upland areas (landfill, pistol range, bulb slope and sandblast area). A copy is provided below. Based on this study, the Corps plans to remove the landfill and dispose of the waste at a permitted offsite landfill. They plan to remove surface soil at the pistol range and then cover the area with clean soil. The feasibility study concluded that no remediation is required for the sandblast area or bulb slope. DEQ and other members of the Technical Advisory Group disagreed with this conclusion. In response, the Corps proposed to address these areas for the purpose of source control, despite their conclusion that this work is not required to meet CERCLA requirements. The extent of work to be conducted at the sandblast area and the bulb slope is still being evaluated.