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Coos Bay Shipyard Cleanup Project Resumes After 14 Years

Abandoned Mid-Coast Marine shipyard site near Coos Bay
Oregon DEQ
Abandoned Mid-Coast Marine shipyard site near Coos Bay

COOS BAY, Ore. -- State environmental officials in Oregon are taking a second look at once heavily-contaminated shipyard near Coos Bay.

Fourteen years after walking away the Mid-Coast Marine cleanup site, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is back to see if its efforts were good enough to declare the project a success -- or if there's still work to do.

By the 1990s, the site was so contaminated the federal Environmental Protection Agency wanted to classify it as a Superfund site. But Gov. John Kitzhaber argued that Oregon could do the cleanup itself. At the time, the project had just qualified for the state’s Orphan Site Program, designed to fund environmental cleanups when the responsible parties are unknown or is either unwilling or unable to pay. The Mid-Coast Marine site qualified because the company had gone bankrupt.

“It is possible that contamination could have moved around and migrated into areas that were cleaned up before,” he said.

In addition, Isthmus Slough contains a mix of residential properties and industry, all which could influence results. Still Hanson said the that risk was not big enough to cancel the testing.

“And we need to satisfy the EPA … because they deferred the site to the DEQ,” he said.

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Jes Burns is a reporter for OPB's Science & Environment unit. Jes has a degree in English literature from Duke University and a master's degree from the University of Oregon's School of Journalism and Communications.