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Portland Harbor Superfund Site

The Portland Harbor Superfund site extends roughly from the Freemont Bridge to Sauvie Island and is located within the city of Portland (see map).

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in cooperation with Multnomah County Health Department, is advising the public of high levels of PCBs in fish caught from Portland Harbor. Eating resident fish from the Portland Harbor superfund site is the greatest risk to public health. To learn more, see the educational materials section below.

Investigation and Cleanup

The Superfund process has determined that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) will jointly manage the investigation and cleanup of the site. However, the EPA will be the lead agency for the in-water portion of the site and the ODEQ will be the lead agency for the upland sources of contamination. EHAP will be involved in determining the adverse human health effects and educating the community on how to reduce or prevent exposures for both in-water and upland portions of the site.

Recreational Use: Public Health Assessment

EHAP issued a report that addressed potential health risks associated with recreational use of the Portland Harbor superfund site. This report incorporated public comments that were received during the comment period.

View the final Public Health Assessment or view the shorter summary.

As a result of public comment, an additional conclusion was added to the report, identifying the former GASCO site beach as a potential cancer risk for those who might recreate there. View a map of sampling locations. This is due to high levels of a class of chemicals known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Originally, EHAP didn't consider the former GASCO beach a "recreational" beach, as it is not a desirable location for recreation, and has fencing all around it. However, a member of the public pointed out that this beach could be accessed from the water and should therefore be included as a potential recreational beach.

As more sampling is conducted within the superfund site, more data become available for EHAP to assess and issue follow-up reports on specific locations. For example, data from the East Parcel Beach of Willamette Cove was brought to EHAP's attention. Willamette Cove sits within the Portland Harbor superfund site, and is an area where bird watchers, dog walkers, teenagers, college students, and transient populations frequent. DEQ asked EHAP to analyze the new data and report out on the findings. The final Health Consultation focused specifically on the East Parcel Beach at Willamette Cove was released in April, 2013, along with a summary fact sheet. Metro is working on posting signs to warn the public of chemical contamination, as well as posting more Portland Harbor fish advisory signs.

Reporting out on Findings

  • EHAP presented the findings of the Willamette Cove East Parcel Beach health consultation at the August 8, 2012 Portland Harbor CAG meeting, held at the City of Portland's Water Pollution Control Testing Lab: 6543 N. Burlington Ave, Portland, OR (map)
  • EHAP presented the latest conclusions from the final version of the recreational use public health assessment, as well as information about new data received on Willamette Cove, on Wednesday September 14, 2011 at the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group meeting. Meetings are held at the City of Portland's Water Pollution Control Lab located at 6543 N. Burlington Ave, next to Cathedral Park under the St. John's Bridge (map). For other meeting details, visit the Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group website.
  • EHAP gathered public comments on the Recreational User PHA until July 5, 2010. Comments were incorporated into the final version of the report, released September 12, 2011.
  • EHAP presented the initial findings of the Recreational Use public health assessment on June 9, 2010, at the City of Portland's Water Pollution Control Lab (see above).

Educational Materials

EHAP Reports: In-Water Activities

  • Willamette Cove East Parcel Beach Health Consultation
    Read the report 
  • Recreational Use PHA
    The Oregon Health Authority, Environmental Health Assessment Program (EHAP) finalized a health assessment to characterize health risks for people who recreate in the Portland Harbor area. View the final Public Health Assessment.
    (The public comment version of this report was released on May 20, 2010. EHAP collected public comments through July 5, 2010.)
  • Fish Consumption PHA
    EHAP evaluated the health risk of consuming fish from the Portland Harbor. The final Public Health Assessment (PHA)  of the report that discusses EHAP's findings was released in March, 2006. This document analyzed data on contaminant levels in fish tissue. Read more about it in the Portland Harbor PHA Summary Fact Sheet. See the listing of fish advisories for the state of Oregon.
  • Initial PHA
    In January 2002, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluated the public health significance of the in-water contamination of the Portland Harbor and wrote an Initial Public Health Assessment (PHA). ATSDR concluded that the consumption of contaminated fish is the main way that people can be exposed to the Portland Harbor site contaminants.

EHAP Reports: Upland Activities

  • Willamette Cove Physical Hazards
    EHAP investigated the public health significance of physical hazards at the upland site known as Willamette Cove. A Final Report for Willamette Cove was released in July 2003.
  • McCormick and Baxter Creosoting Company Public Health Assessment
    Within the current Portland Harbor Superfund site boundaries, the McCormick and Baxter Creosoting Company is a separate and distinct superfund site. ATSDR evaluated the public health risks of this site's contaminants, which include creosote and other wood-treating chemicals, and wrote a Public Health Assessment in June 1995.

Portland Harbor Collaborating Organizations

Related Information

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