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Portland Harbor

Juvenile Chinook salmon.
Juvenile Chinook salmon.
Pacific lamprey.
Pacific lamprey. (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Fishing from the bank at Cathedral Park in Portland, Oregon.
Fishing from the bank at Cathedral Park in Portland, Oregon.

"Since time immemorial we, the River People, have harvested fish in the waters of the Willamette and the Columbia.  Polluted moribund waters cannot give life to the salmon and without that we, the River People, cannot live." 

Chairman Austin Greene, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon

Hazardous Waste Site | Portland, Oregon | 1900s to Present


What Happened?

Since the early 1900s, numerous facilities have released oil, PCBs polychlorinated biphenyls; a class of chemicals previously used in manufacturing that remain in the environment for many decades, accumulate in living creatures, and pose health hazards to humans, wildlife, and fish., heavy metals, pesticides, and other hazardous substances into Portland Harbor. This highly industrialized area of the Willamette River continues to serve as a hub for the commercial shipping industry.

EPAU.S. Environmental Protection Agency; federal agency with the mission to protect human health and safeguard the environment. designated the area a Superfund siteAn uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Sites are listed on the National Priorities List for evaluation and cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. in 2000. Portions of the contaminated area have been cleaned up, and planning for a large-scale cleanup is underway. NOAA has been providing technical assistance to EPA throughout this process.


What Were the Impacts?

  • Contaminants in Portland Harbor have accumulated in sediments at potentially hazardous levels within an 11-mile stretch of the lower Willamette River and adjacent floodplains.
  • Salmon and lamprey, as well as fish-eating birds (eagles, osprey) and mammals (including mink), have been exposed to these contaminants and may have been injured.
  • Resident fish in the lower Willamette River contain elevated levels of PCBs and mercury. Health advisories restricting fish consumption are in effect. 


What’s Happening Now?

  • NOAA and the other members of the TrusteeGovernment officials acting on behalf of the public when there is injury to, destruction of, loss of, or threat to natural resources. Council are currently conducting an injury assessment. 
  • The Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is separate from EPA cleanup activities.

  • NOAA and other Trust Council members, have been conducting a Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) since 2010 for the site, to evaluate natural resource injuries incurred over time in areas contaminated with hazardous substances (such as DDT, PCBs, and others), and oil.

  • The scope of the NRDA includes impacts to natural resources such as fish, wildlife, sediments, and surface water, and the lost services related to those resources, including recreational fishing and tribal uses.

  • On May 23, 2018, the Trustee Council released an Addendum to the Portland Harbor Natural Resources Damage Assessment Plan to provide an update on the status of the NRDA; information regarding the Trustee Council’s emphasis on specific natural resources and hazardous substances; methods and metrics for quantifying contaminant-related injuries; and the specific studies the Trustee Council has identified to support the damage assessment.

  • NOAA accepted comments on the addendum by email and by postal mail through June 22, 2018.




Rob Neely
NOAA Office of Response and Restoration
Seattle, WA
(206) 553-2101

Last updated June 14, 2019