February 27, 2017

A Superfund victory

A Meyer-funded coalition of people and groups united in pursuit of a strong, equitable cleanup of the Willamette River Superfund site scored a key victory this winter.

Spurred by grassroots activism against a cleanup plan many criticized as too weak to protect all people against the health risks of Portland’s polluted river, federal officials on Jan. 6 nearly doubled the amount of carcinogen-tainted sediment they plan to remove from the river bottom.

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said their shift toward a more robust cleanup was a direct result of widespread public outcry against the original plan. The agency received thousands of public comments demanding more, many of them gathered by Meyer-funded community organizers with the Portland Harbor Community Coalition, who strived to capture the voices of low-income, minority, immigrant and homeless Portlanders.

Read our profile of three of those organizers for insight into the life experiences that guide their activism.

Although the $1 billion plan represents a major milestone for groups demanding a thorough, fair Superfund cleanup, their work isn’t done. With continued grant support from Meyer, the coalition is pushing for economic and social justice in the Superfund process by insisting that cleanup contractors hire a diverse, local workforce and demanding opportunities for public input as the cleanup proceeds.