Create toxic dump to clean up Willamette? One option EPA says

Create toxic dump to clean up Willamette? One option EPA says »Play Video
The St. Johns Bridge spans the Willamette River. One option to clean up the river is to create a toxic waste dump nearby at the Port of Portland's Terminal 4. Some neighbors, however, are concerned about doing so.

ST. JOHNS, Ore. – Neighbors of the Port of Portland's Terminal 4 don't want a toxic waste dump nearby, but the Environmental Protection Agency says it is a possibility.

The toxic waste dump on the river just north of the St. Johns Bridge is one of several options the EPA is looking at. It says one way or another it is cleaning up the Willamette River.

There are at least 29 toxins in the river that are dangerous for humans.

One option is that the EPA would dredge the toxic waste from an 11-mile stretch of the Willamette and dump it right into one of the slips at Terminal 4.

But that option has some neighbors frustrated.

"We've got plenty of toxins around here without making it into a dump down there. That's terrible," said Bob McMurtry.

In 2000 the EPA decided to start studying the pollution in the Willamette River. Since then it has found about 150 groups responsible for putting toxins into the river, including, they say, the Port of Portland.

Now the EPA wants those groups to pay to clean up the river whether they dredge it, treat it or cap the pollution.

"Because we've got a patchwork of conditions out in that 11-mile stretch of river, we're probably be employing a lot of those different technologies," said Chip Humphrey of the EPA.

According to the EPA, the river needs to be cleaned up because toxic fish can harm humans.

"It's usually something like a cancer effect that's developed," said Humphrey. "So it's not like an acute exposure where you’d get sick right away, but over a lifetime you can have some serious health effects."

The EPA says it has created toxic waste dumps before in the Puget Sound area.

Humphrey said the agency hasn't seen any leakage from those dumps into neighborhoods or soil.

The EPA hasn't made any decisions on how it is going to rid the river of the pollution. It says it wants to get public input first and will be holding meetings to get that input.

One meeting will be Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. at the BES Water Lab, 6543 N. Burlington Ave. The EPA will answer questions from members of the community and provide more information about the option to dump the waste at Terminal 4.

According to the EPA, it won't even have a proposed solution until at least next summer.

We started looking into this story after concerned neighbors contacted us. If you have a story for us send us an email at