Legacy Pollution Sites

Today, we face serious clean-up challenges at former aluminum smelter sites and other shuttered industrial sites along the Columbia. Riverkeeper works with effected communities to provide technical and legal assistance on the complicated cleanup processes at legacy pollution sites along the Columbia. Our biggest legacy pollution site on the Columbia River is Hanford, where the United States dumped billions of gallons of radioactive wastes on the banks and into the Columbia River. Other examples of our work on Legacy Pollution Sites include:

Alcoa/Evergreen Smelter, Vancouver, WA

Along with our partners at the Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Riverkeeper worked extensively on one of the worst toxic hotspots on the Columbia – the former Alcoa aluminum mill in Vancouver, WA. Rosemere serves a predominantly low-income and minority population that is most affected by the old smelter.

Rosemere and Riverkeeper filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list the highly-polluted site on the Superfund list. This petition spurred action by Washington State agencies to expedite the clean up. After years of pressure from Riverkeeper and Rosemere, Alcoa cleaned up highly toxic PCB-contaminated sediment in the Columbia River and at the site.

Alcoa/Reynolds Metals Smelter, Longview, WA

The former aluminum smelter in Longview, located on the banks of the Columbia River, left a legacy of severe groundwater and soil contamination. The 460-acre site exceeds legal limits for cyanide, fluoride, and petroleum by-products in soil and groundwater. In 2007, the Washington Department of Ecology entered an Agreed Order with a subsidiary of Alcoa and the then-owner of the site—Chinook Ventures.

Unfortunately, cleanup has been stalled due to mismanagement, poor oversight, and a proposed coal export terminal at the site. Instead of focusing on cleaning up the site, Alcoa has leased the property to coal companies, Millennium and Arch coal, who plan to create one of the largest coal export terminals in the world. Today, Riverkeeper is working with local citizens to jump-start the cleanup and promote a new vision for this prime industrial property.

Public Beach at Former Kaiser Shipyards, Vancouver, WA

Kaiser Shipyards buried industrial debris and domestic garbage along the banks of the Columbia River in the 1940s. That waste now underlies the City of Vancouver’s Marine Park, and two adjacent properties. In 2012 waste became exposed at the City of Vancouver’s public beach, and sampling revealed dangerous concentrations of lead at the beach and in groundwater.

The City of Vancouver’s current proposal to deal with contaminated soil and shipyard waste on the beach is problematic and could benefit from public review and input. Riverkeeper is advocating that the state oversight agency—the Washington Department of Ecology—take a hard look at this cleanup site and keep the public fully informed as cleanup proceeds.