Washington, DC - . Electrical equipment containing PCB's* has been dumped for decades directly into the Columbia River next to a landfill operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers but the Corps failed to report it, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Despite reports of the problems as early as 1992, the Corps did not make "a significant, major or even minor finding" concerning the site for more than five years and in 1996 made a minimal disclosure to state and federal employees only after employees threatened to go public.
Transformers and other electrical equipment have been dumped directly into the river off of Bradford Island located near the spillway of the Bonneville Dam. For more than 40 years, the Corps operated Bradford Island as an all-purpose landfill for disposal of pesticides, lead, mercury and a wide array of other toxic materials. One Corps memo notes, "This site may be the most potentially destructive htw [hazardous waste] activity this decade."
In the first media reports about Bradford Island published in the Oregonian last November, a Corps spokesperson maintained, "The materials were a surprise to us," despite records indicating prior knowledge of problems at the site. On December 14, the Portland District of the Corps issued a "directive" forbidding agency employees from speaking with the media concerning "Bradford Island electrical component discovery and removal actions..."
"The Corps has spent far more time and effort covering up Bradford Island than cleaning it up," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "As a federal agency with an environmental protection mission, the Corps should be curing, not causing pollution."
*PCB's are highly toxic chemicals that have been banned from production since the mid seventies. They are one of the most persistent pollutants - accumulating in the body fat of animals - and have been associated with cancer, sexual deformities, and other ailments.