Gunk in the creek

By Stephen Quirke


In 2013 three types of radioactive thorium were found in a “gelatinous goo” that built up in a drainage pipe that leads from the Precision Castparts Structurals Campus into Johnson Creek.

Recently neighborhood mothers posted signs along Johnson Creek warning that contaminated discharge from Precision Castparts runs into the creek.

Julie Reardon, a mother of a three year old daughter who was present for the sign posting said, “We didn’t see any signs warning people, so we decided to make our own and post them so we could educate our neighbors.”

Spokesman Jay Khetani for PCC said, “PCC Structurals is committed to the safety of our employees and neighbors and in minimizing our impact on the environment. We do not use arsenic or cadmium as part of our processes.

“Our emissions – air and water – are in full compliance with permits issued and audited by the Oregon DEQ. We began discussions with DEQ late last year about additional air emission control systems and are in the process of installing those upgrades. That work is scheduled to be complete by the end of June, but we hope our contractors can finish the work sooner.”

Environmental law firm Keller Rohrback announced on April 15 they were investigating potential claims on behalf of residents and businesses in Portland who were affected by toxic chemicals from Precision Castparts.

About a dozen people turned out to a Milwaukie city council hearing April 19 to voice concerns with chemicals coming out of Precision Castparts. The council also heard from DEQ officials, and a general manager at Precision Castparts.

aJC1At the meeting, General Manager Aaron Johnson admitted that practices discontinued at his facility in the 1990s have left a legacy of toxic substances in Johnson Creek, including PCBs and chlorinated solvents.

The longevity of these substances, and the cost of cleaning them up, can be brought into perspective by looking at the highly contentious Willamette River superfund site.

Between the Broadway Bridge and the Columbia River, the Willamette is contaminated with PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, DDT, furans, and heavy metals from the legacy of riverside companies treating the Willamette as a dumping ground.

A full clean-up of these 2,200 acres of the Willamette River is estimated to cost $2 billion, with a majority of the clean-up accomplished by “natural recovery” – waiting for substances to either get diluted or break down.

The companies responsible have long argued that more aggressive clean-up plans are too expensive, despite the fact that subsistence fishermen are currently eating fish from a river that the EPA says are not safe.

Early last month the Portland Harbor Community Coalition convinced the city to fund an outreach effort to those most affected by such poisons in the river. EPA officials are currently accepting public comments on their clean-up plan, and are hoping to have a final clean-up plan approved by December.

Precision Castparts will hold a public meeting May 25 from 6 to 8 pm to take questions from neighbors.

The location has not yet been announced, but interested residents can check for updates at or through the facebook site for the South Portland Air Quality group.

Gunk in the creek

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