Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Issues surrounding clean up of the former G.P. Site

1) According to DOE, Georgia Pacific drafted the 1994 RI/FS without Ecology oversight. In the Phase II Proposed Agreed Order, Ecology proposes to use Georgia Pacific's 1994 RI/FS, with the Department of Ecology's review.

Under the proposed Agreed Order, Ecology will release G.P. from liability for specific contaminants that may be subsequently discovered at the chlor-alkali plant site.

Why would the Department of Ecology enter into an agreement to release the potential liable party from cleanup responsibility for contamination it created?

2) The Port and Ecology are seeking approval to dump a portion of dredged materials from the Whatcom Waterway at the Bellingham Bay or Rosario Open Water Disposal Site.

Materials dumped at open water disposal sites are not controlled or contained. A better choice would be an approved upland toxic waste dump or a Confined Aquatic Disposal site that can be tested and monitored.

3) Across the nation, Brownfield re-development studies have demonstrated that it is very difficult for agencies and potentially liable parties to adequately assess site contamination.

What may initially appear to be a straight forward cleanup may under calculate the amount of contamination, resulting in higher cleanup costs.

Higher clean up costs can result in project delays and increased construction costs.

4) The greatest challenge for the assessing the level of contamination on the G.P. uplands is determining the actual amount of soil contamination; as levels of contamination are not uniform throughout the site.

We already know that 12 tons of mercury is buried in the Chemfix. Hence, we need to determine how much more mercury and other hazardous chemicals are hidden in the soil and groundwater; and, what health hazards they may represent to college students, workers, and proposed residents on the site?

The DOE has this site listed as a "5" on a scale of "1 to 5," with "5" being a low hazard site. I'd love to hear the state's explanation for the low rating on a site that contains at the minimum, 12 tons of mercury!

5) Traditionally, real estate market conditions play an integral role in the dynamics of the sales agreement. In hot markets, the seller is at an advantage.

This advantage, according to a 2009 DOE study, often extends to erasing clean up liability, even if the seller is the party that contributed to the contamination. (No wonder the Port doesn't support public ownership). They don't want to be liable for future claims or clean up costs!

It appears that the Port of Bellingham intends to sell the property "as is" and require indemnification from the buyer. Not only does this create a disadvantage for potential buyers, it can also create a public health hazard for members of the community who will be working or living in an environment while clean up and development takes place over the next 20 to 30 years.

When markets slow, some sellers will take some responsibility for cleanup but many others will sit on their site until market conditions improve again.

I would like this project to be successful. But successful redevelopment depends on responsible governing and clean up.

The City and Port have indicated that they are willing to invest up to $250 million in public infrastructure development for this site. I wonder, are they willing to invest half that amount in clean up? How about a quarter of that amount?

2009 WA Department of Ecology Study on Brownfield reclamation and re-development:

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