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Sunday, July 18, 2010

URBAN KAYAKING: Portland Harbor (Things to see in a Superfund site)


Inauspicious signs for the beginning of a journey.



At the beginning of July, I gained access to the Portland Harbor area via the Swan Island boat ramp. It didn’t seem very intuitive to me that there might be a recreational launching point in the middle of what I always perceived to be a heavy industrial area, but there it was, a long non-descript boat ramp angling into the water at the tail end of long rectangular un-natural looking bay, a body of water perhaps designed to provide comprehensive access to Port of Portland dry docks or perhaps merely the ex-channel that once, presumably, gave Swan Island the right to be defined as an island.


At the tiny beach end of the rectangle in a dirty crescent of sand, pregnant women cast their fishing lines into the water as they lounged in cheap folding chairs and watched their young children splashing in the water, and playing with plastic detritus.


Editors note: In response to reader commentary, we are providing the alternate sentence for your consideration -


At the tiny beach end of the rectangle in an oil slicked crescent of sand, a score of obviously pregnant women lounging in cheap folding chairs alternated sipping TAB and nibbling at Twinkies with casting their fishing lines into the turbid water, only haphazardly (if at all) watching their young malnourished children splashing in the water, playing with odd bits of plastic (sometimes mouthing them) or molding castles out of thick, smelly, organic detritus.

It was hot and the boat ramp seemed kind of isolated from civilization on a holiday weekend, the factories and piers deserted and even fast food businesses closed. A vagrant walking a bicycle, telltale garbage-bag knapsacks tied to a makeshift rack, patrolled a walking path that intersected the parking lot. I saw him headed north at first, but later as I unloaded my gear, I saw him coast through headed south again. I wagered, uncharitably, that there was a 50-50 chance that I’d lose another car window by the end of the day, so I was careful to sweep the cab for valuables.





Map taken from:
Oregon Department of Human Services
Superfund Health Investigation and Education
Portland Harbor Health Assessment Findings


Contaminants Detected: Surface Water

ACENAPHTHENE
ACENAPHTHYLENE
ANTHRACENE
AROCLOR 1254
AROCLOR 1260
ARSENIC
BENZ(A)ANTHRACENE
BENZO(A)PYRENE
BENZO(GHI)PERYLENE
BENZO(J,K)FLUORENE
BENZO(K)FLUORANTHENE
BENZOFLUORANTHENE, 2,3-
CADMIUM (CD)
CARBAZOLE
CHROMIUM
CHRYSENE
COPPER
COPPER COMPOUNDS
DDD
DDE
DDT
DIBENZ(A,H)ANTHRACENE
DIBENZOFURAN
FLUORENE,NOS
HEXACHLOROCYCLOHEXANE, ALPHA ISOMER
HEXACHLOROCYCLOHEXANE, BETA ISOMER
INDENO(1,2,3-CD)PYRENE
LEAD (PB)
MERCURY
METHYL PHENOL, 4-
METHYLNAPHTHALENE, 2-
NAPHTHALENE
PHENANTHRENE
PYRENE
SILVER
SILVER COMPOUNDS
TRIBUTYLTIN
ZINC
ZINC COMPOUNDS

Taken from www.scorecard.org - The Pollution Information Site



Rivers and oceans are so big, they were able to cover or wash away many of our sins for the better part of our occupancy on Earth. But the technology that arises from our intellectual cleverness has allowed us to reproduce prodigiously and plunder resources at a rate that may ultimately empower us to kill the oceans.



Chains built for giants



Massive metal plates on a framework so vast, they look like the taut skin of a zeppelin


The paradox of metal that floats



St. Johns Bridge





At the interface between land and water, everything is temporary.





If it takes a dry dock to repair a ship…



…how do you repair a dry dock?






This city made possible by a generous grant from the Willamette River.

2 comments:

  1. 1. I think "detrius" was the word you were looking for not "detritus" Which I think implies Organic detrius.
    2. Your reference to me as likely thief and vagrant WAS rather uncharitable. I've sponsored that walkway ever since I lost my job with the city not unlike civic organizations sponsor sections of the highway and pick up the litter.
    3. I watched your truck to make sure no broke in. That should be worth a couple of bucks to you. Right? or some cigarettes. I'm just sayin.......If you feel like you wanna make things right I'll be here all week.
    Lien Schmidtgold

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lien,

    Regarding point one:
    I guess that's what I get for trying to expand my vocabulary. I thought the word I wanted was 'detrius' as well, but, the thing is, my spell-checker keeps red-lining it. I share your concern about the implication of organic detrius, but, after some research, I believe some of the secondary meanings may suffice. In any case, the possibility of children playing with organic detritus invokes an image that may be even more troubling than the image I was trying to describe. Maybe I'll try an alternative sentence or two.
    Regarding Point 2:
    If you've been sponsoring that walkway, not unlike civic organizations that pick up litter...well, you've missed quite a lot of litter.
    Regarding Point 3:
    I duct taped a pack of cigarettes under the rim of the porta-potty. Probably no-one will think to look for them there owing to all that organic detritus.

    ReplyDelete

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