The Yakama Nation is surrounded on three sides by Superfund sites, which pollute Yakama’s ceded lands and usual and accustomed fishing areas. To the east of the Yakama Reservation is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation; to the north, the Holden Mine site on Lake Chelan; and to the south, Bradford Island, Harbor Oil in North Portland, and Portland Harbor. All these sites were polluted in the mid-20th century and, without intervention, will continue to pollute Yakama ceded lands.
The Portland Harbor Superfund Site
The Yakama first lobbied for the designation of Portland Harbor as a federal Superfund site in 1998. It was so designated in 2000. In 2009, Yakama withdrew as an appointed Trustee of the site in protest against the decision by other Trustees to limit damages to the impacts within the boundaries of Portland Harbor.
Since then, Yakama has funded independent analysis of existing scientific studies of the impacts of Portland Harbor contaminants—PCBs, DDTs, and PAHs, primarily—on Lower Columbia Chinook. The consensus is grave: not only are these toxic chemicals present in dangerous levels in the sediment, surface water of the Lower Columbia, but they are present at levels that exceed acceptable risk for human health. Presently, the Yakama Nation is the only source of independent scientific review and the only voice arguing for protection of the Lower Columbia against the contamination migrating from Oregon’s largest superfund site.