Cleanup of hazardous materials aboard vessels at site near Goble, Ore. begins

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Coast Guard and its Oregon state partners started the cleanup process, Thursday, of a former leased site near Goble on the Columbia River where there are multiple vessels, some of which may potentially contain environmentally hazardous material including bunker oil, various fuels, asbestos, lead paint and household waste.

The lease started in August 2012 and was originally for restoration of the River Queen, but in the next three years, an estimated 27 vessels in various states of disrepair were brought to the site by the lessees.

Three vessels sank in the leasehold within a 12-month period, two of which resulted in emergency Coast Guard clean-up action. The lessees failed to remove the vessels from the waterway. As a result, the Oregon Department of State Lands terminated the lease for the use of submerged land, effective May 1, 2017. The lessees had until May 31 to vacate the leasehold and remove all vessels and structures.

The Coast Guard will oversee the initial phase of the cleanup process, which is estimated will take approximately two weeks. The Department of State Lands will enter the site upon the Coast Guard’s completion of hazardous materials removal, and begin their efforts to contain and remove asbestos-containing materials, solid and hazardous waste, remove any remaining vessels, and restore the site.

Personnel from the Coast Guard’s Columbia River Incident Management Division opened the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to pay for the cleanup and pollution mitigation. The cost is yet to be determined but the majority if not all cleanup cost are not paid using taxpayer dollars. Instead OSLTF money is accumulated over time by fines and penalties levied nationally for environmental crimes. In total the Coast Guard has already used about $345,000 from the fund to conduct cleanup operations during four previous responses at the site.

“The Coast Guard’s priority is to eliminate all substantial oil and hazardous material threats associated with the vessels currently located at the Goble property previously leased by the responsible parties,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Madjeksa, acting response chief Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “The mitigation of the threat for pollution in coordination with our partners from the state of Oregon will offer a cleaner, more useful and more sustainable waterfront.”

“For the past two years, the Coast Guard, Oregon Department of State Lands, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality have been actively engaged with the lessees in attempts to prevent pollution,” said Lori Warner-Dickason, northern operations manager for the DSL. “The decision to evict the tenants and take over the leasehold came only after those efforts to gain compliance failed. The intent is to ensure public health and safety and protect the trust values of navigation, fishing and public recreation in the Columbia River.”

In 2016, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality imposed a civil penalty of $200,783 on the lessees for accumulation of solid waste, the open accumulation of asbestos-containing material, and the release of petroleum fuel into the Columbia River resulting from the sinking of the vessel HV Newell in September 2015.

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