The Oregonian recently printed this story about the proposed cleanup of the Zidell Marine Corp. site along the south waterfront. The story said, in part, “There were dozens of oil spills on the site from the 1960s to the 1980s. Fires burned docks and buildings. Ship dismantling included salvaging transformers full of toxic PCBs and burning PCB-laden wire insulation to salvage the underlying copper. Debris was buried in open pits. The riverbank was shored up with scrap metal, asbestos, basalt ballast blocks from salvaged ships, and other debris.”
Here is what they are talking about. This aerial photo from 1964 shows the extent of the debris field. The lot is pretty barren these days, mostly gravel and puddles and a parking lot on the north end that was once the asphalt floor of the Alaska Steel Co. buildings. Note the supports for the Marquam Bridge, then under construction, as well as the sawdust-fired power plant and industrial area where Riverplace now is.