A new study found 7,800 people are eating contaminated resident fish from the Portland Harbor Superfund site. As The Oregonian reported today, the study was funded by three of the industries that are responsible for cleaning up the site.
It was based on a survey of anglers who fish in the Willamette River. The survey found 4,800 people are eating fish that are contaminated beyond the safe levels recommended by health officials for unrestricted human consumption.
But it found fewer than 100 people eat fish at the levels the Environmental Protection Agency used when it set standards for how clean the site needs to be to minimize human health risks.
The EPA set clean-up standards to protect people who eat 20 meals of resident fish a month from consuming toxic pollutants at levels that threaten their health.
Eating contaminated resident fish is by far the biggest human health risk associated with the Portland Harbor site, which is contaminated with the industrial compound PCB, carcinogenic dioxins and furans, the banned pesticide DDT and PAH, another carcinogen that is released through combustion, tar and coal.
Earlier this month, test results from a sucker fish caught in the area revealed levels of PCB that are 27,000 times what the EPA recommends for unrestricted fish consumption.
The question of how clean Portland Harbor needs to be to protect human health is a big one for the industries paying for the clean-up because it affects how expensive the job will be. Check out this guide for more on the Portland Harbor clean-up process.