Port of Vancouver USA Settles Pollution Lawsuit

Image: Port of Vancouver USA.

The Port of Vancouver USA and environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper on Sept. 12 announced that they have reached an agreement to settle a Clean Water Act lawsuit over years of alleged unlawful water pollution from the public port.

In the settlement, the port committed to make significant changes to reduce the amount of water pollution that flows off the 1,643-acre property into the Columbia River. However, before the proposed settlement can go into effect, it must undergo a 45-day review period by the U.S. Department of Justice and be approved by a federal district court judge.

As part of the settlement, the port agreed to work with their tenant that handles copper ore, Vancouver Bulk Terminals, to install a $25.5 million rotainer system. A rotainer, short for rotating container, is a container that is rotated to be emptied.

Such containers are typically used to transfer materials from a train, truck or ship directly into another ship’s hull in order to minimize dust and spillage.

Under the new system, the terminal will receive and store copper ore in fully enclosed containers, which is expected to significantly reduce the amount of copper entering the Columbia. 

Also, as part of the settlement, the Port of Vancouver USA agreed to make several other improvements to its facility to reduce industrial pollution, including:

Developing and implementing an operations and maintenance plan for a bio-retention treatment system at the port’s Terminal 2.

Relocating metal stored near a maintenance shop to a location where it won’t come into contact with precipitation or stormwater runoff, 

Developing and implementing a study to identify the locations most responsible for exceeding the port permit’s benchmark for total copper, and 

Purchasing a Vactor truck, aka a vacuum truck, to reduce stormwater pollution. Vactor trucks handle large-scale liquid and sludge clean up, most commonly in sewer and septic system maintenance.

The settlement also requires the port to make a $500,000 payment to the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board and the Regional Salmon Recovery Organization, the lead entity for salmon habitat restoration for the lower Columbia River in southwest Washington.

The port also has agreed to fund and implement a $150,000 project to improve water quality in Vancouver Lake, to be completed by January 2024.