City of Portland agrees to pay $19.5M settlement to DEQ for Columbia Slough cleanup

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland has agreed to pay a $19.5 million settlement to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for the cleanup of the Columbia Slough.

“This up-front funding will help cleanup happen more holistically and move forward in a way that will better support shared remediation goals, protect public resources, and bring the community into the restoration process,” said DEQ project manager Sarah Miller.

The $19.5 million paid by the city to DEQ will be distributed over three years. The funding will help to address stormwater discharges and sediment contamination in the slough, officials said.

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This all comes after DEQ held a public settlement process back in November of last year. On Wednesday, the Portland City Council voted to approve the settlement.

DEQ says they and the city landed on a settlement approach to make the cleanup project more efficient. The settlement will fund numerous aspects of the cleanup process, including:

  • Contributing to the design and construction of cleanup action in high-priority sediment areas.

  • Creating a slough-wide sediment and fish tissue sampling event.

  • Evaluating all city-owned stormwater basins to prevent pollution from reaching the slough.

  • The construction of 15 stormwater treatment projects at priority stormwater basins.

  • Create environmental justice-focused watershed habitat and health improvement projects in consultation with the community.

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This all comes after historic city development along the slough led to “an accumulation of contamination in the sediment and in fish, damaging the ecosystem,” officials said. This latest settlement represents the culmination of a series of five-year agreements, stretching back to 2005, between the city and DEQ on evaluating sources of contamination, in particular as it pertains to how it travels through Portland’s stormwater systems.

The work that the city is slated to complete related to the settlement is slated to unfold over the next 15 years. After that, ”DEQ will release the city from liability for historical discharges to the slough,” officials said.

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