After requiring local businesses to spend over $90 million studying Portland Harbor, the EPA has learned that the river is remarkably clean, considering its historical use as a sewer and industrial dumping ground. There are some very contaminated places in the river that require remediation, but most of the study area is already cleaner than East Coast rivers are after they are cleaned up. Not to be deterred by the good news, the EPA is forging ahead with billion-dollar remedial plans based on assumptions that clearly do not apply in the real world. For example, the EPA assumes that when people eat bass and carp from the river, they do so without cleaning or cooking it and they eat the entire fish, including the skin and internal organs!

Thankfully, several members of the Oregon congressional delegation recently sent a letter to the EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, stating their support for a cleanup that is protective of health and safety, but also asking pointed questions about the assumptions that the EPA has thus far applied at the harbor. We hope the EPA will heed these concerns and select a remedy that protects human health and the environment but does not waste scarce resources trying to protect against exposure scenarios that do not exist. There are other much more significant environmental risks to human health in the Portland area, and the EPA needs to figure out how to address the real risks that people face.

To read more on the state of the river compared to other rivers in the country, please see Cleaning Up Clean Rivers: Dollars Well Spent?