The Port of Astoria will accept the state’s decision on the cleanup of fuel pollution on the central waterfront and negotiate a multimillion-dollar settlement with oil companies.

Bulk oil, manufacturing and other heavy industrial operations have left left behind underground pipes, tanks and pockets of pollution under the Port’s docks. A pipe leaked in the 1990s, releasing oil into the groundwater under the Port’s old offices on Gateway Avenue and into the Columbia River at a slip between piers 1 and 2, where the agency has used a boom to prevent an oil slick from spreading.

Deal reached on Port oil cleanup

The Port of Astoria and oil companies have agreed on the concept of a permeable barrier to treat and prevent petroleum from seeping into the Columbia River between piers 1 and 2.

The state Department of Environmental Quality recently determined the Port and other responsible parties — McCall Oil & Chemical Corp., Niemi Oil Co. and ExxonMobil — should excavate contaminated soil and place a permeable cap over the polluted area. Monitoring wells would provide feedback on the cleanup’s progress.

“It’s probably fair to say it is the most cost-effective and it makes no sense to think about appealing this,” Thane Tienson, part of the Port’s legal team, told the Port Commission on Tuesday.

The Port originally pushed for a new dock to be built and backfilled to block pollution from reaching the Columbia. But the state and other responsible parties balked at the more expensive proposal.

A state consultant recommended a marine mattress filled with cap materials and topped by rock riprap. But the Port and other parties did not support the solution.

The state allowed the responsible parties to create a general solution for capping the polluted area. The specifics of the cap, how it will be protected from rough weather and the cost will be decided during the design phase with environmental firm Maul Foster Alongi.

“Armed with that information, we will go forward and try to negotiate a resolution with the other primarily responsible parties,” Tienson said.

The hope is to figure out the specifics and cost over the next few weeks, Tienson said. Similar proposals have surpassed $3.5 million.

The Port’s team has settled with some insurers and still has outstanding claims with others, Tienson said, but is cautiously optimistic it can reach a solution that limits the Port’s costs for cleanup.

“The remedy itself is a long-term program,” he said. “It’s essentially going to be a multiyear process of implementing a remedy and then 30 years, essentially, of operations and maintenance.”

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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