Superfund cleanup should not be delayed
By Earl Blumenauer
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is a Democrat who represents Oregon's Third District.
Despite today's polarized environment in Washington DC, there are several areas where federal attention and investment makes sense and should have bipartisan support. Cleaning up America's contaminated Superfund sites is a perfect example where this kind of cooperation is needed. The last thing that local businesses and taxpayers can afford is the prevailing attitude of “sue, study and stall” which has unfortunately defined the last decade of the Superfund program.
Successful cleanup of highly polluted areas not only restores the environment and protects public health, it also creates jobs for large and small businesses, bolstering the local economy and attracting new development to formerly blighted areas. This is certainly the case for the Portland Harbor, a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River listed as a Superfund site in 2000. The river is contaminated with PCBs and other heavy metals associated with multiple sources from more than 100 years of activities and more than 100 potentially responsible parties. As Oregon’s largest seaport with 40,000 jobs in the surrounding area, the Portland Harbor is crucial to our local economy and its cleanup is a priority for Oregon’s entire delegation in Congress.
In recent years I have grown increasingly concerned by the lack of progress on the Harbor cleanup alongside the growing costs associated with studying the problem. I have convened several meetings with business, government, tribal and environmental leaders to push the cleanup process and timeline in addition to focusing on how Congress can help, including renewal of the Superfund tax. Last month, my colleagues, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Congressman Kurt Schrader, joined me for a stakeholder session and boat tour of key sites.
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