Travis Williams, head of the Willamette Riverkeeper, stands where Johnson Creek flows into the Willamette River in Milwaukie. Williams says PCBs in the creek could migrate to the river and then the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

Travis Williams, head of the Willamette Riverkeeper, stands where Johnson Creek flows into the Willamette River in Milwaukie. Williams says PCBs in the creek could migrate to the river and then the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

Jamie Valdez/Pamplin Media

The City Council was justified in paying for most of the Portland Harbor Superfund costs so far with sewer ratepayer funds — and may use them to pay for the majority of the potentially higher cleanup costs required by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, according to a Multnomah County Circuit Court ruling released Thursday.

However, in the final ruling in the long running utility ratepayer lawsuit against the City of Portland, Judge Stephen Bushong also ruled the council must eventually “reallocate” all of the city’s Superfund spending by assessing any other bureaus deemed liable contributing to the pollution.

The EPA has released a preliminary $748 million cleanup plan that it is expected to finalize on Friday. Some harbor related businesses believe the final cost will be much higher, perhaps $1.5 billion to $2 billion or more.

In an earlier ruling, Bushong found that the City Charter requires that water and sewer ratepayer spending must be “reasonably related” to the missions of the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city’s sewer system and stormwater management programs. The lawsuit filed by several ratepayers charged that the council had illegally spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the years on projects and programs with little or no connection to the bureaus.

Read more at The Portland Tribune.