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Alternative decontamination plans considered

Citizens and environmental groups want the EPA to deploy innovative cleanup methods for the Willamette River Superfund project, including use of substances that break down harmful chemicals to render them nontoxic.

The Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group has urged the EPA to conduct pilot tests of such in-river treatments, says Jim Robison, the group’s chairman.

However, one hangup is that it will cause delays in the ultimate cleanup, he says.

Willamette Riverkeeper also is urging pilot projects to test the newer cleanup methods.

Such methods are no longer just experimental, says Peter deFur, president of Environmental Stewardship Concepts and technical adviser to the Willamette Riverkeeper and the Community Advisory Group.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - St Johns Activist Barbara QuinnTwo California projects used bacteria to help break down PCBs, and the method was endorsed by the California EPA office, deFur says.

But both successful projects were based on relatively dry land. “Nobody’s tried it yet in the river,” deFur says.

The Willamette River “is not going to work well for that,” he adds, given its deep waters, heavy current, and brisk ship traffic.

However, it might be viable to try the newer decontamination techniques on river sediment stowed in a confined disposal facility, deFur says.

— Steve Law