Questions linger on pricey toxic cleanup

| Print |  Email
Articles - September 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The former McCormick & Baxter creosote factory in North Portland.
// Photo by Michael G. Halle

Environmental officials are quick to assert that Oregon’s most expensive publicly funded cleanup is not failing from an environmental perspective. But from a real estate perspective, the $55 million cleanup of the former McCormick & Baxter creosote factory in North Portland has created complications. The property is located next to a former industrial parcel bought by the University of Portland as part of a campaign to create a new “river campus” on the Willamette River waterfront. But UP has held off buying the McCormick & Baxter property because of concerns about the cleanup.

Rather than haul away several million tons of creosote and contaminated debris, officials opted to contain the pollution with barrier walls and two caps, one in the river and another upland. The upland cap has experienced unexpected stress as a result of the biodegradation of waste wood used as a fill underground. Department of Environmental Quality project manager Scott Manzano says the resulting chemical reaction raised groundwater temperatures to 104 degrees, released methane and created a 75-foot conical depression a foot deep.

Manzano says the chemical reaction and the uneven settling of the ground there was “not expected” but “in no way shape or form is that a failure.” After identifying the problem, environmental contractors cut off the oxygen supply to minimize the chemical reaction.

But UP officials turned skittish after contemplating the liability involved with buying tainted property. They backed away from buying the 43-acre property, which they had hoped to redevelop for recreation fields, sports facilities and environmental labs. The university also got tangled up in a legal battle with the Zidell family over the adjacent property, further delaying expansion.

UP assistant vice president James Kuffner says the university hopes to break ground next year on a new riverfront baseball stadium on the former Zidell property and has not given up on the McCormick & Baxter property. “If the DEQ is feeling they’ve made some strides there, it’s probably time for us to check in with them,” he says.

The university has already invested more than $10 million in the area and is likely a year away from moving dirt.

Ben Jacklet


More Articles

Kill the Meeting

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Meetings get a bad rap. A few local companies make them count.


Legislative Preview: A Shifting Balance

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.


A Complex Portrait: Immigration, Jobs and the Economy

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oregon Business reports on the visa squeeze, the skills gap and foreign-born residents who are revitalizing rural Oregon.


Healthcare pullback

Thursday, November 20, 2014
112014-boehnercare-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Each month for Oregon Business, we assess factors that are shaping current capital market activity—and what they mean to investors. Here we take a look at two major developments regarding possible rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Two Sides of the Coin

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
22 twosidesBY JASON NORRIS

Historically, when the leaves fall, so do the markets. This year, earnings, Europe, energy and Ebola have in common? Beyond alliteration, they are four factors that the investors are pointing to for this year’s seasonal volatility.


Election Season

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.


OB Poll: Wineries and groceries

Friday, October 24, 2014

24-winethumbA majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02