Yakama Nation Sues Army Corps Over Columbia River Cleanup

Yakama_Sue_Army

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used Bradford Island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation. | credit: Flickr Creative Commons: A. F. Litt

 

By Courtney Flatt, NPR

For decades the Army Corps of Engineers used an island near the Bonneville Dam as a dumping ground. Toxic chemicals leaked into the Columbia River. The island is also a historic fishing site for the Yakama Nation.

The tribe is now suing the Corps to recover costs from helping clean up the contamination.

In 2003, the Corps removed electrical equipment and contaminated sediment found at the bottom of the river. In 2007, it dredged the area to remove more contaminated soil.

Tests show toxic materials like PCBs, which were banned in the 1970s, are still found in resident fish – even after the Corps finished cleaning up Bradford Island. The Yakama Nation says the PCB counts in resident fish are higher now than before the cleanup. No one is really sure why, but it’s possibly because of the way the sediment was disturbed.

Rose Longoria, the superfund coordinator with the Yakama Nation, said the tribe was not reimbursed for its efforts to help cleanup the site. The tribe is asking for about $93,000, although that number could change.

“More importantly, we want to make sure that we have a very definitive role in the decision making process so that we can ensure that the cleanup actually is protective not only the resident fish but all the resources in that area,” Longoria said.

The Corps is looking at several options to continue cleaning up the island. A feasibility study is expected to be completed in 2015.

A Corps spokeswoman said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

PCB map
A map of PCB fish concentrations in Washington.

 

Longoria said the Bradford Island cleanup is one of Yakama Nation’s top priorities, simply because of the level of contamination in the fish — and high counts of PCBs of other animals in the area, like osprey that eat small-mouth bass in the contaminated area.

Oregon and Washington have issued a do-not-eat fish consumption advisory for resident fish one mile upstream of Bonneville Dam. Migratory fish like salmon are still okay to eat.

“The PCBs in that resident fish tissue are a magnitude higher than PCBs in fish tissue in other locations,” Longoria said. “It’s rather astonishing how contaminated those fish are.”

 

Marysville gets $200K for waterfront cleanup at marina

Dan Bates / Herald file photo, 2009Rob Fuller (left) and Andrew Eaton, both of Marysville, cast for sturgeon from the dock at Ebey Waterfront Park in Marysville in October 2009. Marysville has received a federal grant to help fund cleanup near the park.

Dan Bates / Herald file photo, 2009
Rob Fuller (left) and Andrew Eaton, both of Marysville, cast for sturgeon from the dock at Ebey Waterfront Park in Marysville in October 2009. Marysville has received a federal grant to help fund cleanup near the park.

By Gale Fiege, The Herald

Marysville is one of eight communities in the region receiving a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to assist with the Ebey waterfront marina land cleanup.

The $200,000 cleanup grant would be used to remediate the contaminated ground on the city-owned marina property at 1326 First St., just west of Ebey Waterfront Park.

The marina property contains waterfront chemicals and pollutants common to timber industry and marine operations that have existed since the late 1800s. Grant funds also will be used to conduct groundwater monitoring and support community involvement activities.

The grants help revitalize former industrial sites, turning them from problem properties to productive community use.

The EPA previously awarded the city a grant in May 2009 to clean up the Crown Pacific mill site at 60 State Ave. on the waterfront just east of State Avenue. The grant will be issued on Oct. 1, but hiring a consultant to develop a cleanup plan that meets approval of the state Department of Ecology and the EPA means that it could be 2015 before actual work starts, city officials said.

Long-term plans as identified in the city’s 2009 Downtown Master Plan would see Ebey waterfront redeveloped with trails, apartments or condominiums and some commercial development.

No specific plans have been decided for the marina site.