Brattle Economist Analyzes Portland Harbor Cleanup (USA)

Brattle Economist Analyzes Portland Harbor Cleanup

A report co-authored by Brattle principal David Sunding analyzing the costs and benefits associated with the Superfund cleanup of Oregon’s Portland Harbor reveals that the cleanup could result in high costs and minimal health benefits.

The study, commissioned by Portland industries Schnitzer Steel, Gunderson, and Vigor Industrial, will be considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will issue final recommendations for the cleanup of contaminated sediment from a 10-mile stretch of the Wilamette River. The study finds that cleanup costs are based primarily on how much sediment will have to be dredged, which permanently removes contamination, but is more costly.

Cleanup costs could range from $445 million to $2.2 billion, depending on how much of the harbor’s riverbed is dredged.

Dr. Sunding’s analysis also reveals that even making conservative assumptions about the amount of people who consume fish from the harbor would not justify the high costs of the cleanup effort. The study finds that in the worst-case scenario of people eating uncooked fish, which have higher contaminant levels, the maximum health benefit would be around $112 million, significantly lower than the cleanup cost range.


Press Release, October 31, 2012