PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — NW Natural crews doing dredge work in the Willamette River came across a piece of history last month.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality confirmed to KOIN 6 News that crews discovered World War II-era military shells and a small bullet on July 23 near the Steel Bridge. The crews are doing work as part of a NW Natural project to clean up contaminated sediment at the former Portland Gas Manufacturing site, which operated in the mid-1800s to early 1900s.
The team immediately stopped work after the discovery and handed over the munitions to personnel from the 142nd National Guard for disposal.
This week, after consulting with a firm experienced in munitions disposal, crews will sort and screen previously dredged sediment for additional munitions.
“It is unclear how these munitions came to this part of the river. However, the area was used for docking naval ships under repair during World War II. Naval ships have also been docking during Fleet Week in this area since 1936,” a spokesperson for DEQ wrote in an e-mail.
Crews hope to resume dredging work next week. DEQ said they will be putting additional protective barriers aboard the barges and add further restrictions to the area. There is already fencing along the waterfront path that will expand before the work resumes.