Washington, DC..The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to test soil and river sediments to determine whether a Corps laboratory near Portland should be placed on “the National Priorities List” for mandatory clean-up under the Superfund Program, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In an October 23, 2000 letter, EPA also charged that the Corps failed to report “many serious hazardous waste handling and disposal practices that were being used at the laboratory” in violation of federal law.
This latest controversy concerning Corps hazardous waste disposal practices concerns the US Army Corps of Engineers Materials Testing Lab in Troutdale, Oregon (known as the General’s Lab). For 49 years, from 1948 through 1997, the General’s Lab conducted physical and chemical testing of concrete, paints, turbine oil and other construction components.
Among the hazardous waste violations now surfacing at the General’s Lab are:
* sink drains, including those in the chemistry lab, pumped PCB’s, mercury, arsenic, solvents and paints directly into a ditch which, in turn drained into a feeder creek of the Sandy River, a tributary of the Columbia;
* the Corps operated an illegal landfill on the site, containing more than forty years’ worth of chemical drums, lab debris and other wastes; and
* for decades the Corps flushed chemicals down a secret toxic waste disposal well.
Ignoring repeated internal reports of problems, the Corps declared site cleanup complete in 1999. Part of the site is now used by Mt. Hood Community College and Reynolds School District.
“What is now being uncovered at the General’s Lab raises questions about what other nasty surprises the Portland District has locked away,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization also released documents showing a cover-up of PCB dumping by the Corps into the Columbia River off Bradford Island. “The Corps not only has a toxic waste problem, it has a severe integrity problem as well.”