Council wants answers on toxins at mill site Ecology will begin sampling soil this summer EVERETT - The Everett City Council last week had a number of questions and concerns regarding the higher levels of contamination found on the Kimberly-Clark Mill demolition site.
The council at its June 5 meeting got a comprehensive overview of what could happen with the contaminated debris Kimberly-Clark has been spreading over the site.
State officials and a city-hired attorney for this issue assured the City Council that the site’s development capability will not be limited to just industrial uses.
The state Department of Ecology plans to start sampling the soil this summer, Ecology land cleanup manager Barry Rogowski said. The process could take one to two years to determine what cleanup will be required.
Jay Manning, a city-hired consulting attorney who used to be Ecology’s director, warned the agency’s process realistically could take three to four years to complete. Kimberly-Clark can fix a contamination problem if it exists, though, by removing the soil or by capping off the contamination with a deep layer of soil to meet regulations, Manning said.
The key issues for council members last week were whether or not a cleanup delay hinders finding a new buyer for the site, whether or not the site would be cleaned up well enough to not limit development to industrial uses, who would enforce this and whether the cleanup level is necessary. Additionally, they wanted to know if Kimberly-Clark, the new buyer, or both, would be responsible for paying for the cleanup.
Council members also debated if Kimberly-Clark ever intended to clean up the property well enough for all uses. They also worry the potential cleanup could be cost-prohibitive to any new buyer. The city in January zoned the 66-acre site for heavy industrial use with the potential for other uses to build there.
“While Kimberly-Clark aspired to clean up the site to unrestricted status, we always said it would depend on site conditions revealed by data gathered during the remedial investigation,” the company said in a prepared statement. “We understood and stated that it might only be possible to attain industrial use standards.”
Council members argue the company gave city leaders every indication the site would be cleaned up to standards that wouldn’t restrict what could be built there.
Manning indicated the council was right to make that assumption.
The city was smart in zoning the site for industrial while allowing options for other types of uses, meaning the site would have to be cleaned up better than just for industrial use, Manning said. This effectively gives the city teeth with its zoning code unless the city, Ecology and Kimberly-Clark all agree to ratchet down the cleanup standards to just industrial levels, he said.
Contamination levels are derived from how much exposure people might get from toxins such as heavy metals, Rogowski said. Contaminated debris above industrial-level standards must be taken off the site and disposed of properly, he said.
Ecology hasn’t determined to what level the site should be cleaned up to; that’s what the studies and public process will determine. However, “we want to keep all of our options out there in case there’s a mixed-use (development) down there,” Rogowski said.
Kimberly-Clark told Ecology in April that its demolition debris exceeded the contamination levels to build residential or other uses on the site, but it opted to spread the debris on the site that didn’t exceed industrial development levels to act as site dirt fill.
The company chose to spread the crushed debris on its own accord, and, Ecology officials emphasize, at its own risk. The company found the soil has higher-than-acceptable arsenic levels and high lead and cadmium levels.
Ecology and others came at Mayor Ray Stephanson’s request after Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher raised alarms about previously unpublicized revelations of the site contamination.
More than 50 people came to last week’s City Council meeting, many coming in response to a Tribune article about Stonecipher’s revelations.
Five residents, including Annie Lyman, spoke up. Many asked council members to ensure the site is cleaned up so that it doesn’t restrict what could be built there.
“Protect ‘we the people’,” Lyman said, adding, “We were ensured all is well and all would be well and now we have our doubts.”
“Let’s get it right the first time,” resident Victor Harris said.
Contractor warned about demolition dust
Kimberly-Clark’s demolition contractor received a written warning last month about dust emanating from the site, a supervisor at the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency told the City Council last week.
At the time of the warning in early May, the contractor’s truck to water down the dust had broken. Cambria, the contractor, now has three trucks working on the site, agency supervising inspector Mario Pedroza said.
Neighbors in the Bayside Neighborhood that overlooks the mill site complained dust was covering their neighborhood. Stonecipher said she still sees cars with covers over them.
Pedroza said people can file dust complaints online at www.pscleanair.org or through the agency’s hot line at 1-800-595-4341.