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EPA delays releasing Superfund cleanup plan, again

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Portlanders awaiting the federal government’s cleanup plan for the polluted Portland Harbor Superfund site will have to wait a bit longer.

In early April, the Environmental Protection Agency delayed its much-anticipated release of the cleanup plan until early May, but that deadline has come and gone.

In response to a flurry of questions of when the cleanup plan will be released, the EPA said Tuesday that it will announce a new date for the cleanup plan during the week of May 23. In essence, that was an announcement of when a future announcement will be made.

The cleanup plan won't be released then, but the agency will specify that week when the plan will be unveiled, said Mark MacIntyre, EPA spokesman for the Northwest region.

The agency has been working to synthesize data and manage large electronic files, encountering some challenges, but it's working through those, MacIntyre said.

The 11-mile-long stretch of the Portland Harbor was named a Superfund site back in 2000, so delays are nothing unusual for a project this complex.

“It may be the largest (Superfund project) in the nation’s history,” said Annie Von Burg, senior program manager for the city Bureau of Environmental Services, who works on the Portland Harbor Superfund project.

Once the cleanup plan is released, that will begin a 60-day public comment period. After taking comments, the EPA will issue a formal Record of Decision. The agency is under intense pressure to do so by December, before a new president and EPA director take office.

If the EPA doesn’t meet that goal, “we could lose two years in the process,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Bureau of Environmental Services.

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