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Bradford Island at Bonneville Dam

Current status

On March 17, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added Bradford Island to the National Priorities List, making it a Superfund site. The listing comes after DEQ, Washington Department of Ecology and the Yakama Nation wrote joint messages in 2019 and 2021 to the EPA seeking to have the site placed on the National Priorities List.

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.

Site summary

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 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 accumulate in the bodies of resident fish. Of particular note, PCBs in smallmouth bass were found at concentrations as high as 183,000 parts per billion. A safe level for human consumption of fish is less than 1 part per billion.

Both Oregon Health Authority and the Washington State Department of Health have “Do Not Eat" fish consumption advisories in effect for resident fish in the area. OHA added a fish advisory for sturgeon in March 2022 as well.

Other known contaminants includes polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the upland and in the sediment, which are from oil and gasoline, and metals contamination in the upland.

Timeline of previous work

  • February 1997 – the Army Corps joined DEQ's Voluntary Cleanup Program.
  • 2000 & 2002 – the Army Corps removed PCB-containing electrical equipment from the river.
  • 2007 – the Army Corps removed some PCB-contaminated sediments from the river.
  • 2011 – fish and shellfish sampling indicate concentrations of PCB concentrations are too high to protect resident fish. Read the results memo.
  • June 2017: Remedial investigation report – documented remaining contamination at the site, where it is, and the risk to people and animals. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Remedial Investigation Report.
  • August 2017: Upland feasibility study – described the Army Corps' approach to contamination in parts of the upland. This feasibility study will be updated under the site's Superfund designation.
  • October 2017: Draft in-water feasibility study – described the Army Corps' approach to addressing contamination in Columbia River sediment.