Excavator at work

Week of May 9, 2021. Very disappointing. “Disappointing” doesn’t seem like a strong enough word. An excavator operator and several workers are tearing down outbuildings and raking up trash mixed with unknown chemicals and loading shipping containers for removal.

Excavator

Chemicals, known and unknown, in drums, bottles, and cans were mentioned in a published report by the City of Gresham. Some of the drums had become corroded over time and probably leaked into the ground. Quoting from the report: 

“Presence of an above-ground fueling tank…an abandoned vehicle, chemical and oil drums…and smaller containers of pesticides, varnishes, and other chemicals were noted in and near structures and scattered throughout the forest floor.” 

Later in the report:  “The presence of a 50-gallon metal drum was observed on-site with the chemical label of Perclene (DuPont) still visible despite some corrosion. Perclene is a formulation of Perchloroethylene (PCE), a chemical commonly associated with groundwater contamination from unregulated use in the 1950s to early 1970s. PCE most often enters the environment via fugitive emissions from dry cleaning and metal degreasing industries, and by spills or accidental releases to air, soil, and water. When released to soil, PCE will evaporate fairly rapidly into the atmosphere due to its high vapor pressure and low rate of adsorption in soil, though release of larger amounts may leach through sandy soils to reach groundwater. It is important to note that this observance does not confirm that PCE was used on the property.”

Source:  https://greshamoregon.gov/Parks-Planning/
(Scroll down to Shaull property – property report PDF.) 

The following three photos were taken from the City’s report, referred to above.

Photo from City of Gresham’s Due Diligence report
Photo from City of Gresham’s Due Diligence report. This is the above-ground fueling tank.
Photo from City of Gresham’s Due Diligence report.
50-gallon metal drum with the chemical label of Perclene (DuPont) still visible despite corrosion.

Here are two additional photos from the City. It looks like some of the debris has been removed.

Another view, inside the barn
Another view of the 50-gallon metal drum. Evidently, the wall leaning against it was propped up.

Here are photos taken by a neighbor of the Shaull property, the week of May 9, 2021. It’s difficult to see what’s happening, but buildings have already been taken down.

Large debris was moved to this location
Excavator at work
Excavator at work loading container
Excavator at work
Three small sheds taken out, trailer removed, plus 4 drums of chemicals
Debris container moved
The barn, partially dismantled

The report mentioned above seemed to imply that it was acceptable to “clean” the property and then conduct an environmental assessment.  However, the process is less than transparent, and we don’t know whether waste and chemicals are being run over by the excavator, scooped up indiscriminately, and allowed to spill on the ground before being loaded into containers, and dumped elsewhere. 

According to the City, “…we are working closely with the property owner and he is in the process of having the site cleaned of accumulated trash and debris.  Because of the volume of materials, this must occur before an Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) process can occur. The property owner has commissioned a company that specializes in environmental assessment, testing, and remediation to oversee and monitor the cleaning and test any potentially hazardous materials in drums or other containers on-site, to ensure any such materials are not mixed with other trash and debris and are handled and disposed of safely and properly.”

The City was asked twice and refused to give more details about the “company that specializes in environmental assessment, testing, and remediation.” However, the report mentioned above states that: 1) the developer has said that any costs incurred for the cleanup will be charged to the City, and 2) the City has said that the developer can clean up the waste more cheaply and with less oversight than the City could do. 

What can you do? Contact the Mayor and City Council and ask for more transparency. https://save267trees.org/why-you-still-need-to-write-to-city-council/.

You can also file a complaint online with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Or call it in. See https://www.oregon.gov/deq/Get-Involved/Pages/File-Pollution-Complaint.aspx

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