BNSF Railway Co. has settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for mishandling and transportation of contaminated soil from a construction project near the McCormick & Baxter Superfund site on the banks of the Willamette River near Portland, Ore.

BNSF will pay a $37,500 penalty as part of the agreement.

Documents associated with today’s action show that BNSF excavated and removed at least three truckloads (36 cubic yards) of soil containing a listed hazardous waste, pentachlorophenol. EPA alleges that BNSF then: 

• Failed to properly characterize the excavated waste.

• Failed to lawfully store and manage the waste on site.

• Failed to properly transport the contaminated soil from the site to a disposal facility equipped and permitted to handle such waste.  

Each failure was a violation of federal hazardous waste law, enforced by EPA to protect communities and the environment. Although BNSF’s contractor performed the work, BNSF is responsible for ensuring that all construction projects are performed in a safe and lawful manner.

Pentachlorophenol, a manufactured chemical, was used in wood treating that took place while the McCormick & Baxter facility operated. It is a restricted use pesticide that has been used industrially for decades as a wood preservative for utility poles, railroad ties and wharf pilings. Exposure to high levels of pentachlorophenol has been shown to cause liver damage, harm the immune system, and have damaging reproductive and developmental effects. EPA has also identified pentachlorophenol as a probable human carcinogen.