Mayor talks tough on Kimberly-Clark cleanup
EVERETT - A recent letter from the city to the state Department of Ecology makes clear the city wants to ensure contamination at the former Kimberly-Clark Mill site is cleaned up enough to allow any type of development.
Mayor Ray Stephanson said last week he’s also not opposed to taking legal action to ensure the site is cleaned up to an unrestricted standard.
Kimberly-Clark, though, said it currently plans to prepare the site for less intense industrial use standards that would suit the site’s potential buyers.
Ecology could not comment yet as it is still reviewing the city’s June 13 letter as of last week, an Ecology official said.
In its letter, the city says the land’s zoning is not limited to just industrial use and asks Ecology to consider this in determining the cleanup level required.
Ecology is starting a lengthy site contamination review after revelations surfaced recently that the 66-acre site has higher levels of contamination within the demolition debris than originally thought. The contamination is higher than unrestricted standards, but below industrial standards.
Ecology has the final say on what cleanup level will be required.
Kimberly-Clark is spreading the contaminated debris across the site at the risk Ecology will tell the company to jettison the crushed brick and concrete later if it’s beyond the contamination standards determined for the site.
In January, the City Council voted to zone the site for industrial use with the allowance for other uses that would require cleaner soil.
The city’s hired attorney Jay Manning, a former director of Ecology, said the city’s zoning gives it legal standing on what cleanup level should be expected.
An Ecology official told the City Council this month that there are small differences between industrial cleanup standards and unrestricted cleanup standards. But which cleanup level is decided upon could have a big impact: If the site only meets industrial cleanup levels, decades from now the site would need to be cleaned up further for a non-industrial use, such as apartments, to be built on the waterfront.
Stephanson is adamant the site be cleaned up for any use. He fears that without the city standing its ground, the site’s future could be restricted.
“If we have to take legal action, we will take legal action,” Stephanson said at a neighborhood meeting last week. “We know that if Ecology will allow (Kimberly-Clark) to do something less, that’s what they’re going to do.”
Kimberly-Clark’s spokesman Bob Brand said the site’s only potential buyers are industrial uses, so that’s what the company is preparing the land for.
“Our current plan is to ready the site for industrial use which, based on the interest we’ve seen from potential buyers, is the most likely future use of the property,” Brand said. “However, if a future owner proposes to use the property for non-industrial purposes there are measures that can be taken to make the site suitable for unrestricted use.”
Brand added: “The ultimate determination about what standards will be applied to the site will come as a result of the process about to be undertaken by the Department of Ecology.”
Brand’s comments differ from a company statement made earlier this month that Kimberly-Clark never explicitly promised it would clean the site up to unrestricted standards. City leaders say the opposite, and claim the company promised an unrestricted cleanup level last October.
“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 earlier this month.
Brand declined to speculate on any impacts Everett’s letter might have in marketing the site.
Additionally, Kimberly-Clark says it’s utilizing the contaminated debris for dirt fill, but the city says its zoning rules dictate that Kimberly-Clark can’t substitute debris for real soil and hydroseed (mulch and grass seed) to restore vegetation.
“The City believes that once demolition and investigatory work is completed, Kimberly-Clark should proceed with placing a soil cover and hydroseeding, which will create a vegetative cover over subsurface contamination at the site. However, we are willing to consider other options as long as they ensure the health and safety of our citizens, which remains our primary concern,” the mayor wrote to Ecology regarding this issue.
Ecology has said the cleanup could take at least two years, and it is unclear if Kimberly-Clark, or a future buyer, or both, would be responsible for the cleanup costs.
Demolition dust settling
Kimberly-Clark’s dust issues appear to have settled down. The demolition site has not received any violations in the past two weeks.
Neighbors uphill from the site complained of dust covering their houses and cars.
An state agency inspector warned contractors to fix the issue last month.
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