Fish near the highly contaminated Columbia River site have some of the highest levels of PCBs in the PNW
Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is proposing to add Bradford Island at Bonneville Dam to the National Priorities List, better known as the Superfund cleanup list. A Superfund listing would provide much needed resources to clean up this site that has ongoing toxic exposure to people, plants, and animals.
“This is great news for protection of the Columbia River,” said Laura Watson, director of the Washington State Department of Ecology. “The Columbia is a cherished resource for the residents of Washington and Oregon, and the people of the Yakama Nation. We are hopeful that this highly contaminated site will finally get the resources it needs to ensure a cleaner river with healthier salmon.”
For years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used the island as a landfill that leached toxins into the Columbia River. This resulted in high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs, in resident fish populations that are the highest anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Both the Oregon Health Authority and the Washington State Department of Health have “Do Not Eat” fish consumption advisories in effect for the area.
“A healthy Columbia River is essential for our people and the salmon that are central to our culture,” said Davis Washines, government relations liaison for Yakama Nation Fisheries. “We are excited to be moving forward and work collaboratively with EPA and the Corps to ensure cleanup results in a sustainable river and healthy fish that are safe to eat.”
The proposed listing comes after Ecology, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and the Yakama Nation sent two jointly signed letters urging the EPA to add the site to the National Priorities List.
“A lot of hard work, planning, and collaboration happened to get us here today,” said Richard Whitman, director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. “We look forward to our continued partnership with Ecology and the Yakama Nation to ensure this important resource is cleaned up.”
The next step in the Superfund process is for EPA to publish a public notice about the proposed listing in the Federal Register and issue a public notice so community members can comment on the proposal. If, after the comment period, the site still qualifies for cleanup under Superfund, it will be formally listed on the National Priorities List.