Let Us Build Cully Park

 "It's a chance to restore essentially a mountain of trash into a community asset"

 

~Tony DeFalco, LUBCP coordinator~

Let Us Build Cully Park

In 2010, the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition brought together Cully residents, community-based organizations, environmental professionals and government agencies to design and conduct a thorough examination of the site's environmental conditions.

In this examination, we looked for pollution that could be harmful to people's health, with a focus on the most vulnerable members of our community: children, the elderly and people with diseases. First, we examined the location for the Cully Park Community Garden. Second, we examined the Full Site.

Click on the headers below to learn more about each of the topics

Site History

From the 1950s to 1980, the Cully Park site was mined for sand and gravel. After mining operations ended, a large pit was left behind, this made the property an ideal landfill site. This pit was covered on the bottom and sites with a liner (30-mil polyvinyl chloride geomembrane) to prepare it for use as a landfill.

From the early 1980s to 1990, the site was operated by Riedel Waste Disposal Systems as the Killingsworth Fast Disposal/KFD landfill, accepting mostly construction waste and other waste that does not rapidly decompose. In 1991, the landfill operation stopped, and a final landfill cover, or “cap,” was completed, and then more than a foot of soil was placed over the cap. A limited gas control system was completed in 1992

In 1994, Riedel Waste Disposal Systems went out of business, and its parent company declared bankruptcy. Soon, it became apparent that the limited gas control system was not working properly – there were four underground fires in the landfill, and landfill gas was moving off site into neighboring buildings. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality/DEQ designated KFD as an orphan project in July 1999, and used funds from the Solid Waste Orphan Site Account to upgrade the methane control system, and implement upgrades to the landfill cover, site drainage, and site security.

The design of a the new methane control system was completed in August 1999, and new methane extraction wells were installed in September 1999. In 2000, the City of Portland became the owner of the site. Through an agreement with the City of Portland, Metro became responsible for monitoring and maintenance of the site.

Current Conditions

Today, the site looks like 25 acres of rolling grassy hills meadow, although the above ground features of the landfill remain. Landfill gas will continue to be produced for as long as it takes the material in the landfill to break down and decompose. This gas is contained within a methane control system, and is burned daily in a small facility next to the NE 75th Avenue entrance. The methane is burned daily in a small facility next to the NE 75th Avenue entrance.

The landfill cap consists of a 30-mil polyvinyl chloride geomembrane, covered with approximately 2 feet of compacted soil and grass. 6 groundwater monitoring wells, a leachate (liquid created by decomposing material) sump, and 6 methane monitoring points are distributed throughout the site.

A leachate collection system pumps leachate generated within the landfill to a sewer that is then discharged to the City of Portland’s sewage treatment plant for treatment before being discharged to the Willamette or Columbia Rivers

 

Is it Safe? Can a landfill really be a Park?

Yes! Cully Park is not the only example of a park built over a landfill. Nationwide there are many examples, and many more to come as land for parks, green space, wildlife and recreation becomes harder and harder to acquire in urban areas.

The site has been slated for park development by the City of Portland since 2002. In 2006, at the urging of the community, Portland Parks & Recreation worked with the community to complete a Master Plan for park development at the site. Completion of the master plan gave the green light to further development of the park.

In 2010, the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition brought together Cully residents, community-based organizations, environmental professionals and government agencies to design and conduct a thorough examination of the site’s environmental conditions.

In this examination, we looked for pollution that could be harmful to people’s health, with a focus on the most vulnerable members of our community: children, the elderly and people with diseases. First, we examined the location for the Cully Park Community Garden. Second, we examined the Full Site.

 

Cully Park Community Garden

LUBCP! worked with community members and the Portland Brownfields Program to examine the environmental conditions at the Community Garden site. This assessment took place in two phases:

  • Phase I. An historical records search that examined past uses of the site. Please click on the following links for more information: Phase I Executive Summary (35 pages); Phase I Report (550 pages).
  • Phase II. Sampling and analysis of the site’s soil to assess its suitability for a community garden. The findings indicate it is safe to proceed with development of the Community Garden. Please click on the following link for more information: Phase II Results (24 pages).

 

Full Site

LUBCP! worked with community members, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality/DEQ, and the Oregon Health Authority/OHA to conduct a Human Health Risk Assessment of the Full Site. This assessment is required by the State of Oregon before a brownfield can be returned to productive use. DEQ and OHA have fully funded the Assessment, an in-kind contribution valued at over $135,000. This Human Health Risk Assessment took place in two phases:

 

Meeting monthly from January-September, 2012, CIC members shared community concerns, advised agency staff, participated in sampling activities, visited the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services lab to learn how samples are analyzed, and gained knowledge and skills in the risk assessment process.

Full Site Phase II has been completed, and the HHRA's Final Report, known as a "Health Consultation Report," has been released. The Report states that the site is safe for park development, "all contaminants tested for are too low to cause concern for human health.  Please click here to read the Health Consultation Report, and click on the following links for summary sheets in English, Spanish or Somali.

 

A New Model

At Cully Park, LUBCP!, community members, DEQ and OHA have created a new model for community development of a brownfield, a model that offers real community and environmental benefits. And, we have been sharing this model. Together with agency partners, Verde and CIC members have presented the model at the Oregon Annual Brownfields Conference (June, 2012, presentation available here) and at the Oregon Public Health Association Conference (October, 2012).

Key components of this model include:

  • Outreach activities that build community awareness about site conditions and the process of environmental assessment. Working together with risk assessment professionals and health educators from Oregon DEQ and OHA, CIC members learned about landfills, brownfield site development, risk assessment, air and soil sampling, and lab analysis of samples.
  • Community participation in the design and implementation of the environmental assessment activities. CIC members shared their concerns about the site with DEQ and OHA, and agency staff ensured that those concerns were addressed in the sampling plan. For both the Community Garden assessment and the Full Site HHRA, community members participated in air and soil sampling activities.
  • Community-lead information sharing. A friend or neighbor is a credible messenger. Through formal presentations and informal conversations in the neighborhood, community members shared the information they were learning in the assessment processes. They listened to the questions and concerns of their neighbors, sharing this feedback with DEQ and OHA. This built trust in the community for the project.

 

End FAQ

 

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