In the 1990s, soil and groundwater contamination (arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals) were discovered in portions of the vacant 21-acre Union Pacific rail yard, between A Street and Hersey Street.
This was reported to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The original cleanup plan, proposed by Union Pacific Railroad, was to remove 35,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. After disagreements and delays over the past 30 years, Union Pacific, the landowner and creator of the toxic contamination, has dragged its feet in moving forward.
The current plan is to not remove any of the contaminated soil, but to pile it up in a permanent “off-limits” and “fenced” toxic 3-acre hill, with the obvious issues of poisons continuing to contaminate groundwater and runoff, leaving the remaining 18 acres still not meeting the Environmental Protection Agency standards for “ground level residential.”
This proposed plan is outrageous. For 30 years, the Oregon DEQ and Justice Department have been remiss in their responsibility to hold Union Pacific to federal requirements and to take action as necessary to cause the railroad to fulfill its legal responsibility.
Ashland has little use for industrial land and is in desperate need of “unrestricted residential land” as the housing crisis worsens. Ashland is a residential and tourist community that has no need for a toxic waste dump in the city.
DEQ has scheduled a public meeting for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the Ashland Public Library to discuss the plan and listen to citizen comments.