Mar 01, 2019

Emerging Contaminants Revealed at Two Oregon Sites

PFAS contaminants were discovered at the Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau training facility and Portland Air National Guard Base

Emerging contaminants found at two sites in Oregon
Emerging contaminants found at two sites in Oregon

Recent testing revealed high levels of per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) at two sites in Northeast Portland, including the Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau training facility and the Portland Air National Guard Base.

According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, the fire rescue training facility is a block from the Columbia Slough and within the boundaries of the Columbia South Shore Well Field, where the Portland Water Bureau draws from wells during summer months and emergencies. The Portland Air National Guard Base lies half a mile west of the city’s well field.

“I know these compounds should not be there,” said Joyce Dinglasan-Panlilio, a University of Washington professor. “So I’d want it to not be there. So I would be really concerned if even a small amount of it is detected in water.”

According to documents obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting, concerns have been expressed internally within environmental agencies regarding if the contaminants can migrate offsite and potentially contaminate the Columbia River, the Columbia Slough, private wells or a well field used to provide drinking water to more than 600,000 people in the Portland area.

However, groundwater sampled for PFAS in 2014 and 2015 revealed no detection of the chemicals. A recent test in 2018 from the well nearest the contaminated fire station also revealed no contamination.

“It’s a pretty high priority right now because it’s new, and because there’s uncertainty,” said Douglas Wise, groundwater protection program manager for the Portland Water Bureau. “Both because of the newness of the contaminants and the discovery, we want to keep our focus there.”