In addition to EPA, two other agencies share responsibility for assessing potential risks to the community's health from contamination. One is a federal agency located in Atlanta, Georgia, called the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, known as ATSDR. This agency is required to assess the potential health risks to the public from Superfund sites within one year of the site being proposed for listing. ATSDR looks at possible ways the contaminants could reach humans through the air, water, soil or food chain. In January 2002, ATSDR issued a preliminary health assessment and concluded that more fish sampling was needed to determine the threat posed by eating contaminated fish.
The Oregon Health Authority, Environmental Health Assessment Program (formerly the Oregon Department of Health Services, Superfund Health Investigation and Education Program) is under ATSDR’s cooperative agreement program, allowing the state agency to conduct health assessments for ATSDR. Following the collection and evaluation of fish data, in March 2006 ATSDR and EHAP issued a public health assessment focusing on eating contaminated fish. ATSDR concluded that eating contaminated fish is the primary way people can be exposed to toxic chemicals at the site. The 2006 report describes contaminant levels in fish tissue in Portland Harbor and provides information to help people reduce their exposure and risk.
Portland Harbor Fish Advisory
The Oregon Health Authority issued a fish advisory because of high levels of toxic chemicals in resident fish in Portland Harbor. The advisory recommends that women of childbearing age, particularly pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, and people with weak immune systems, thyroid or liver problems, should avoid eating resident fish, especially carp, bass and catfish, caught between Sauvie Island and the Fremont Bridge in the Lower Willamette River.
The Environmental Health Assessment Program’s latest public health assessment evaluated the public health impact of contaminant levels on Portland Harbor recreational users.
The conclusions of the report are the following:
As more sampling is conducted, and more data become available, will conduct follow-up assessments at specific sites within the Superfund area in order to reflect current information. For example, new data was recently brought to Environmental Health Assessment Program's attention, indicating high levels of lead and other contaminants such as PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and dioxins found at Willamette Cove, a site within the Portland Harbor superfund area that is accessed heavily by bird watchers, dog walkers, teenagers, college students, and transients. This data prompted the agency to begin work on a follow-up health consultation, focused specifically on trespasser use at Willamette Cove, which is scheduled for released in Spring 2012.
- People who regularly boat, swim, beach comb or work at the former GASCO site beach over several years, may be exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at levels that may increase their risk of developing cancer at some time in their lives. However, it is unlikely that this beach is presently being used recreationally on a regular basis.
- Swallowing or touching chemical contaminants in water, beach sediment, and bottom sediment at other beaches is not expected to harm the health of people who boat, swim, beach comb or work within the Portland Harbor Superfund Site.
- Although not site-related, water contact of any kind near combined sewer overflow areas during the rainy season could cause bacteria-related illness.