In the early days of Oregon's industrial growth, there were no
environmental rules about how to handle and dispose of hazardous
chemicals. This has left a legacy of contamination at sites around
Oregon. Contemporary spills and leaks of chemicals further add to the
problem. DEQ has identified over 4,500 potentially contaminated sites in
Oregon since 1988 and has found contamination at nearly 800 of these
DEQ's cleanup programs protect human health and the environment by
identifying, investigating and cleaning up sites contaminated with
hazardous substances. DEQ has helped clean up over 1,400 contaminated
sites throughout Oregon, many of which are now in productive reuse or
are suitable for redevelopment.
DEQ has been involved in the cleanup of contamination from a
number of mines in Oregon, including the now inactive Opalite Mine in Malheur County, southeastern Oregon.
DEQ created its Voluntary Cleanup Program to provide oversight to
property owners and others wishing to investigate and clean up hazardous
substance sites in a voluntary, cooperative manner. Projects range from
simple sites with a limited amount of contaminated soil to complex sites
with multiple contaminants in soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment
and air. DEQ staff may work in the field or review the work of
environmental consultants hired by the property owners. When necessary,
DEQ also uses its enforcement authority to require cleanups.
However, sometimes DEQ must initiate a cleanup without voluntary
action by the property owner. "Orphan" sites are those contaminated by a
release of hazardous substances that pose serious threats to human
health or the environment, where the parties responsible for the
contamination are either unknown, unable or unwilling to pay for needed
cleanup. Abandoned mines have become a significant issue, and are
usually part of DEQ’s Orphan Site Program.
DEQ currently oversees the cleanup of more than 470 contaminated
sites throughout Oregon.
Site restoration often involves removal of contaminated
soil. Cleanup of the McCormick & Baxter Creosoting Co. site in
north Portland resulted in the removal of 33,000 tons of highly
Cleanup of the McCormick & Baxter site included the
installation of geomembrane lining to prevent the downward
percolation of rainwater as a protective barrier from runoff
into the Willamette River.