By: Duane Craig
Perhaps in a case of the federal government bending over a bit too far at a state’s request, the Portland Harbor Oil Superfund site may not get a cleanup with federal dollars, according to this article. The reason is because after closer scrutiny, the pollution isn’t serious enough, and the local fish aren’t plentiful or old enough to warrant a cleanup.
An oil spill from storage tanks owned by Harbor Oil in 1974 was the first warning shot of a minor disaster unfolding. That incident killed the fish in Force Lake. Then, just five years later, a massive fire melted five oil storage tanks. Nearly 100,000 gallons of petroleum products spilled into the lake and fouled its wetlands.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are the biggest threat to life at the 19-acre site with levels at 2,000 parts per billion. However, the current owner has paved over the contamination, effectively capping it to prevent precipitation from disbursing it. The lake’s sediment has been found to have PCBs at 80 parts per billion. The EPA believes the greatest threats to humans now lie with eating fish from the lake because PCBs are classed as bioaccumulative, meaning they concentrate in living tissue.