The federal Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday proposed adding the Astoria Marine Construction Company shipyard site, located in Astoria, to the National Priorities List – the agency’s list of the most contaminated sites in the nation. 

The shipyard occupies approximately eight acres of low-lying land adjacent to tidal flats. If listed as proposed, it will be cleaned up under the agency’s cleanup program known as Superfund.

The EPA says that decades of shipyard activities have contaminated sediments in the Lewis and Clark River and Jeffers Slough and soil and groundwater at AMCC. Site contaminants include petroleum, heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and organotins.

“A full evaluation and cleanup of contamination at the Astoria Marine facility can be part of a healthier future for the Columbia River Basin," said Dan Opalski, EPA Region 10 Superfund Director in Seattle. "The Superfund listing will provide a clear framework for EPA to work with the company to identify and complete necessary clean up actions in coordination with its ongoing operations.”

In a Clatsop County Board of Commissioners work session Feb.23, the board indicated their support of AMCC and said they wanted to remain involved in the process if EPA went ahead with listing.

The commissioners and local fishers and boat owners are worried that listing will result in a business-breaking clean up.

“This is a heritage business in our community,” Commissioner Peter Huhtala said. 

If AMCC closed, the only other shipyard options are far from Clatsop County, one of the closer options being in Coos Bay.

The AMCC has been active since 1924 and has been used primarily as a shipyard to construct wooden boats, except for brief periods during World War II and the Korean War when the company was contracted to construct military vessels including minesweepers and tugs. Currently, AMCC conducts manufacturing and repair on small marine vessels.

If the site is added to the National Priorities List, EPA said it will work with tribes as well as local, state and federal government agencies to clean up the AMCC site.  Cleanup of the site would also support the Columbia River Toxics Reduction Action Plan.

Public comment on the proposed listing will be accepted for the next 60 days, through to the beginning of May.

The EPA will decide whether to list the site after consideration of public comments.

According to the EPA website, comments on the proposed listing must be sent to EPA Headquarters. For regular mail (no facsimiles or tapes), send comments to: Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; (Mail Code 5305T); 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; Washington, DC 20460.

For hand delivery or express mail (no facsimiles or tapes), send comments to: Docket Coordinator, Headquarters; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; CERCLA Docket Office; 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW; EPA West, Room 3334, Washington, DC 20004.

Comments must be sent to a specific project docket ID number. AMCC’s number is EPA-HQ-SFUND-2011-0075.

“EPA will not address comments unless they indicate which component of the (Hazard Ranking System) documentation record or what particular point in EPA’s stated eligibility criteria is at issue,” according to the agency’s published “Current Proposed National Priorities List Rule” available online at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

The hazard ranking system documentation for AMCC is available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/newprop.htm

For additional information on EPA’s national priority listings, go to http://go.usa.gov/4Kd

Copies of supporting documentation for the proposed listing are also available for review at the Astoria Public Library, located at 450 10th St., and the EPA Region 10 Superfund Records Center at 1201 Sixth Avenue in Seattle.

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