Oregon DEQ Sues Corps
by KC Mehaffey
The State of Oregon is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for payment of $839,923 in costs the state incurred evaluating and cleaning up Bradford Island, a site near Bonneville Dam where toxic materials were dumped for 40 years.
The lawsuit, State of Oregon v. United States of America et al., was filed Oct. 19 in the U.S. District Court in Oregon, and names the United States, the Department of the Army and the Corps as defendants.
The suit says the Corps disposed of waste materials at a landfill and surrounding areas on Bradford Island from 1942 to 1982 and is responsible for the cost of cleaning it up under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
In coordination with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Corps started conducting soil, groundwater and sediment tests at the site beginning in 1997, the suit says. The following year, the Corps entered into an agreement with DEQ agreeing to pay the agency its costs to review and provide oversight to the investigation and cleanup of hazardous substances at the site.
The complaint said contaminants of concern found at the site include petroleum hydrocarbons; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; metals such as lead and mercury; polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs; pesticides; herbicides; and volatile organic compounds.
Oregon says hazardous substances have been found at the site in sediments, surface and subsurface soils, fish and other aquatic species, and groundwater.
The lawsuit says in September 2019, the Corps notified Oregon it was terminating its agreement. In an August 2020 letter, the Corps asked DEQ to reimburse the $768,923.40 it had paid since 1998, saying "USACE is not and was not legally permitted to pay these costs."
DEQ incurred additional costs of $71,000 after the agreement was terminated, and will continue to incur remedial action costs related to ongoing investigations at the site, the lawsuit said.
The state is asking a judge to find that under CERCLA, the agreement is enforceable and that the Corps is liable for paying costs incurred by DEQ until the agreement was terminated in October 2019.
Last November, Oregon, Washington and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation asked the Environmental Protection Agency to put Bradford Island on the Superfund list.
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