Under his administration, Oregon built sewage treatment plants and imposed controls on industrial polluters that became models for the 1972 Clean Water Act. The Willamette River, whose citizen-led cleanup in the 1960s inspired the nation to reclaim its waterways, has become so tainted by sewage and industrial waste that it faces being listed as a federal Superfund site--the roster of the country’s most polluted places. Triangle Park is located directly below the university's 115-acre campus on the bluff. Portland is promoting the river that runs through its downtown as a great place for swimming this summer after years of sewage overflows made its waters too dirty. According to the Riverkeeper’s report, semiconductor and related high-tech industries were the second-largest toxic polluters of the Willamette in 1997. But the latest study of toxic chemicals in Oregon’s waterways show the largest variety is within the Willamette River Basin. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1449240174198-2'); }); For decades, residents have been repulsed by the idea of swimming in the Willamette River because of weekly sewage overflows that created a bacterial stew. Still, the agency continues to monitor perchlorate levels in both groundwater and milk produced in the region and is developing a more in-depth analysis that will be released to the public upon its completion. 0000018455 00000 n Is it Safe to Swim in the Willamette River in Portland? . The chemical is a manufactured salt found in rocket fuels, explosives, flares, fireworks, some bleach products and some herbicides, but it also occurs naturally in arid environments and has been found in imported natural fertilizers. Union Pacific Railroad Tie Treating Plant. Oregon is home to a number of these sites, which can all be found on the National Priorities List, an archive of the dirtiest places in the U.S., of which there are more than 1,300. Voters must chose among 33 candidates for four seats on the the Los Angeles Community College District’s seven-member board. A full assessment of the site, including the most recent 5-year review, can be found here. The city already has reduced overflow 50% since 1991, but officials say that delaying completion of the project an additional nine years would also allow them to address the wide variety of urban pollutants that are washing into the river from streets, lawns, parking lots and agricultural areas. 0000018342 00000 n A yet-to-be-released report on health risks shows that Native Americans who daily eat fish from the river stand a 1 in 10 chance of getting cancer. 0000129203 00000 n Film shot in the 1960s showed healthy fish dropped into the river flailed and died within minutes. Cleanup was completed in 1996, but ongoing efforts are required to maintain the safety of the site. Your opinions are important to us. Part of the deal included a stipulation that the university would contribute $3 million into a cleanup trust fund set up by the EPA. Each summer, more than 1,500 people jump into rafts and inner tubes for The Big Float across the Willamette. Still, it can’t hurt to be aware of your surroundings and of what potential hazards may lurk there. In 1987, the EPA did its first major sampling of possible pollution effects and found high toxicity levels in crayfish. "We have a chance to reshape the face of our city," he said. Part of the reason that our water doesn't get that bad is the fact that it is a river and is continually sweeping out to sea - we aren't next to a lake. startxref endstream endobj 52 0 obj <. Roughly 2-4 feet of contaminated topsoil needs to be removed and work got underway in in July of 2016. and Terms of Use. The 24-year-old swim teacher and lifeguard began diving into the Willamette with the River Huggers swim group this month. Among the numerous toxins that leached from the plant into the soil next to the Willamette River in northeast Portland were sodium chlorate, an herbicide and bleach for paper pulp; chlorine hydrochloric acid; DDT, a long-banned pesticide highly toxic to aquatic life; ammonia and rocket propellant. The site of a former gas plant, the Gasco/Siltronic location on the Willamette River in north Portland is part of the larger Portland Harbor superfund site. Meanwhile, there is the issue of cleaning up sediment long ago deposited in the riverbed around Portland Harbor, the subject of the present Superfund action. 0000001938 00000 n The Corps of Engineers under current policy does not dredge at Superfund sites. For decades, the river was considered a watery highway, and industrial pollution severely contaminated its waters. The site of a former gas plant, the Gasco/Siltronic location on the Willamette River in north Portland is part of the larger Portland Harbor superfund site. 0000005440 00000 n You can read the EPA's most recent assessment here. 0000022391 00000 n We’ve got growth management, we’ve got environmental controls. Covering a roughly 10-mile stretch of the Willamette, from the Broadway Bridge to Kelly Point Park in North Portland, the site is riddled with toxins including polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins/furans, pesticides and heavy metals all of which can be detrimental to human health. One of the Portland Harbor's dirtiest corners is that of the former Arkema plant, where industrial toxics were produced from 1941 to 2001. Beaches in other communities along the river attract crowds, but swimmers in downtown Portland have nowhere to dive in despite increasing demand. Yes, it’s safe to swim in the Willamette most times of the year. In Portland, the movement has clearly found its moment. 0000015564 00000 n DEQ and the city of Portland regularly monitor bacteria levels in the river. 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Named to the EPA's National Priorities List in 2007, the Formosa Mine, where zinc and copper were plied from the earth for decades before the site was shuttered in 1993 after state inspectors found operations were exceeding the mine's permit and prices collapsed in the metal market. “People look at Oregon as the big green state. Operations at the plant left soil, sediment and groundwater polluted with radionuclides and volatile organic compounds. PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Willamette River is contaminated with toxic chemicals and metals, and in a new study the Department of Environmental Quality said it poses a threat for human health and aquatic life. But in a report released this week, Willamette Riverkeeper showed the amount of toxic chemicals dumped in the river had doubled from 1995 to 1997, to 4.1 million pounds. Located in The Dalles, the Union Pacific Railroad Tie Treating Plant, was in operation from 1926 until 1987. While generally it is considered safe to swim in the Willamette River, the river has a large watershed and pollutants can reach the water from many potential sources. 0000161627 00000 n 0000003789 00000 n I think the smell and the unclean feeling you get after swimming in the Clackamas or Willamette is largely algae - which can be fueled by phosphate and nitrogen entering the river from land. It tastes a little funny, but it is river water," Johnson said. But some environmental groups hailed the decision, saying it would push local officials to get on with the job of removing deadly contaminants from the riverbed. 103 0 obj <>stream 0000005260 00000 n Chemicals in weed and bug killers are ending up in the Willamette River through water runoff. Now, the city issues just a handful of warnings in winter and none during the peak swimming months of July and August, said Diane Dulken, spokeswoman for Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services. Using Visibility to Estimate Health Effects, Temporary Rule Suspensions for Wildfire Cleanup, Harmful Algal Blooms: Drinking Water Cyanotoxin Monitoring, Willamette Basin Mercury Variance Rulemaking, Water Quality Standards for Toxic Pollutants, Human Health Water Quality Standards for Toxic Pollutants, Water Quality Standards Revisions for Freshwater Ammonia, Water Quality Standards Revisions for Bacteria, Freshwater Aquatic Life Water Quality Standards for Copper, Water Quality Standards Revision for West Division Main Canal Near Hermiston, Oregon. the river, Andrea Matzke, Lower Willamette Basin thick like blue kept away from affected waters. Most of the chemicals are coming from pesticides and herbicides. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local. Located on around 20,000 acres near Hermiston, the Umatilla Army Depot has acted as a storage facility for munitions and chemical warfare agents since 1941. Teenagers lounged like harbor seals on a nearby dock and jet skis zipped by as the swimmers completed the more than half-mile (0.8-kilometer) journey. 0000001623 00000 n The Reynolds metal plant, located just north of Troutdale, was originally built in 1941 to supply the government with aluminum. Your email address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the email. M. Modest_Man Well-known member. <]/Prev 318727/XRefStm 1623>> — An $8 million clean-up of the Willamette River started in downtown Portland, Monday. “The everyday person can really have an impact in improving water quality in the Willamette, purely by being selective about the kind of products they purchase,” Ross said. 0000142774 00000 n 0000011172 00000 n Since the completion of the sewage control project in 2011, swimmers have been congregating on a floating esplanade for bikers and runners and sneaking onto city docks reserved for fire boats. Assigned to the EPA’s National Priorities List in 2011, “after annual efforts to remove contamination were not effective for long-term protection of human health,” the agency said. It’s the same thing happening with flame retardant chemicals, not just in clothing, but leaching out of electronic equipment and ending up in landfills. Residents grew accustomed to seeing near-weekly warnings about water quality during the winter rainy season, where even one-tenth of an inch (2.5 millimeters) of rain could trigger overflows. Those operations left behind a toxic stew of plating wastes, which often contained chromium, which seeped into soil and groundwater at the site. Also, bacteria can wash into the river following heavy rains, so avoid swimming at those times. xref In 2011, some additional controls were put in place to control groundwater and, the following year, the first 5-year review was conducted. About the same time, there was a growing awareness that fish in the river were showing elevated levels of dioxin, one of the Earth’s deadliest carcinogens, produced by pulp mills. On this day, he joined 30 others as they swam from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Morrison Bridge—through Portland's bustling business district—and back in the 70-degree (21 Celsius) water. 0000001791 00000 n It is that listing, in part, that has prompted Portland officials to seek a delay in their plan to build a new sewage system that by 2011 will nearly eliminate rain-induced overflows into the river. © 1998 - 2020 Nexstar Inc. | All Rights Reserved.