Yakama Sue Polluters for Cleanup Costs

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) — The Yakama Confederated Tribes and Nation sued dozens of major corporations for dumping toxic chemicals into the Willamette River for years, polluting fishing grounds the Yakama have used “since time immemorial.”

The seven tribes of the Yakama Nation have a 3,186-square-mile reservation in south central Washington, just south of the city of Yakima. Their population was 31,800 in 2000.

Though the reservation is far upstream from Portland Harbor Superfund Site and the Lower Willamette River, the Yakama say the toxic dumping has destroyed and degraded off-reservation fishing rights in the Lower Columbia River, which they were granted by treaty in 1855.

Air Liquide Corp. is first of a long list of defendants, which include ExxonMobil, BP West Coast, Bayer CropScience, the BNSF Railway, and Portland, the Port of Portland, Oregon and the United States.

The Yakama say in the federal complaint that they have paid at least $283,472 to help clean up the Superfund site, though they had nothing to do with its contamination.

Chemicals removed from the Portland Harbor site include arsenic, asbestos, pesticides and herbicides, petroleum hydrocarbons and lead.

The Yakama agreed in 2001 to help clean up the site, in exchange for costs, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an administrative order requiring the defendants to pay its costs.

Here are the defendants: Air Liquide America Corporation, Arkema Inc., Bayer CropScience, BP West Coast Products LLC, Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company, Calbag Metals Co., City of Portland, Eastman Chemical Company, ExxonMobil, FMC Corporation, Ga-Tek Inc., Gunderson LLC; Kinder Morgan G.P. Inc., Koppers Industries Inc., McCall Oil Real Estate Co. LLC, MMGL Corp., Morec Front LLC, Northwest Natural Gas, Northwest Pipe Co., Nustar Energy LP, Port of Portland, Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc., Siltronic Corporation, State of Oregon, Sulzer Pump Services (US) Inc., TOC Holdings Co., Union Pacific Railroad Co. and The United States of America.

Representatives for Air Liquide America and ExxonMobil did not return phone calls requesting comment.

The Yakama are represented by Thomas Zeilman of Yakima, and David Askman of Denver. Zeilman did not return a phone call seeking comment. Askman could not be reached.

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