Members of Congress Announce Support for New Superfund Listing

“This is a game changer. Superfund listing will kickstart a cleanup of this forgotten waste dump..." -Lauren Goldberg, Columbia Riverkeeper


Members of Congress Announce Support for New Superfund Listing on Columbia River near Bonneville Dam

Despite the U.S. Army Corps’ resistance to Superfund listing, elected officials support holding federal agency accountable for languishing cleanup

July 19, 2021 (Portland, OR)—Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined forces with Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici to call for an end to a stalled-out cleanup on the Columbia River. In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Members of Congress expressed “strong support” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list Bradford Island and surrounding waters of the Columbia River, located near Bonneville Dam, on the nation’s Superfund list. For over 40 years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) dumped toxic pollution in and along the Columbia River at Bradford Island. 

"The timing of this letter is critical. The Yakama Nation is concerned that federal agencies are not understanding that the cleanup at this site is an absolute emergency. Adding the Bradford Island site to the national Superfund list will add structure and an enforceable schedule with milestones which are desperately needed," said Rose Longoria, regional Superfund project manager with Yakama Nation. 

“This is a game changer. Superfund listing will kickstart a cleanup of this forgotten waste dump. We applaud members of the Northwest delegation for standing up for the people harmed by toxic waste,” said Lauren Goldberg, legal and program director with Columbia Riverkeeper.

Bradford Island and surrounding waters are a historical Tribal fishing area. Today, Tribal people and diverse communities use the area for subsistence and recreational fishing, despite advisories warning not to eat resident fish such as bass and sturgeon. In fact, resident fish caught near the island contain the highest levels of cancer-causing PCBs in the Northwest. The Oregon Health Authority and Washington Department of Health issued fish advisories warning people not to eat resident fish caught near Bradford Island.

In the letter to OMB, the federal agency currently evaluating the implications of a Superfund listing, the Members of Congress detailed their support for Superfund listing, referred to as the National Priorities List. The letter states:  “Unfortunately, it seems that the Corps has been unable to prioritize strong and decisive action here. Additional oversight and engagement from EPA, through official listing on the National Priorities List, is critical to ensure that meaningful remedial action is taken.” 

Every year, EPA selects new sites for the nation’s “worst-of-the-worst” Superfund list and, through a listing, opens the gates to additional funding, heightened scrutiny, and tighter legal controls to reduce threats to public health and the environment. If EPA approves a Superfund listing, the decision would proceed through a rulemaking process in 2021, which will include an opportunity for public comment, and an ultimate listing decision by EPA in 2022. 

Earlier this year Yakama Nation, the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality, and the Washington Dept. of Ecology reaffirmed a 2019 request for EPA to add Bradford Island and surrounding waters to the Superfund list based on years of stalled and inadequate cleanup by the Corps.

Despite the significant contamination, under the Trump administration, the Corps slashed funding for Bradford Island cleanup. In August 2020, EPA failed to nominate the site for Superfund listing.