Some clean up has been done along the 11 miles of polluted Willamette River in the 15 years since the the Superfund designation, but much work awaits the EPA’s final clean up plan, still being developed. Here are some photos from around the McCormick and Baxter site, one of the first to be cleaned up.

Severely polluted environmental sites all around the country have been designated as Superfund sites. In Oregon, the Portland Harbor was designated such a site in 2000 after an extensive evaluation process. Human and ecological health is at risk from the chemicals that made their way into the river as a byproduct of industry and other human activity. Contaminants include heavy metals, PCBs, DDT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from fossil fuels, and phthalates, which can interfere with human hormones. 

Some places, like the McCormick and Baxter site have been cleaned up already. But much of the other cleanup will not move forward until the Environmental Protection Agency comes out with final plan, known as Record of Decision. The National Remedy Review Board is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to hear from the EPA, in one of the last major meetings before a draft plan is released.


  • Cami Grandinetti: EPA program manager who oversees the Portland Harbor Superfund site
  • Barbara Smith: Spokeswoman for the Lower Willamette Group, which comprises some of the more than 150 “potentially responsible parties” in the clean up
  • Travis Williams: Executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper

OPB EarthFix reporter Cassandra Profita contributed to this article.