Everett plans to sue Kimberly-Clark over mill site fill
EVERETT —The city of Everett plans to sue Kimberly-Clark to make the company cover up the land with fresh dirt where its longtime paper mill once stood.
The City Council unanimously voted to go forward with a lawsuit demanding the leftover site of the demolished Kimberly-Clark Mill be covered with at least one foot of topsoil and grass.
The lawsuit would stem from a year-old demand the city made which Kimberly-Clark would not capitulate to — the company says it’s not the city’s domain to decide what goes on the land. The company also says the crushed concrete it spread over the site is a superior alternative.
The city’s issue boils down to the toxicity of the soil at the site. Different development types demand different cleanliness standards for that soil, and the crushed concrete is only good enough for an industrial use to come onto the property — no waterfront residential or commercial properties would pass muster.
The city believes it can enforce the site’s cleanliness to higher standards after Everett went through a lengthy site planning process during 2012. Kimberly-Clark, in the past, pointed to the state Department of Ecology as the true rulemaker on toxicity, not the city, but also indicated promises to clean up the site.
The city’s original deadline for Kimberly-Clark to lay topsoil and grass was April 15. It was then extended to June 15. The work was never done.
“We have not been able to resolve our differences,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said. “Our concern is that these are two things that they were obligated to.”
Kimberly-Clark says that topsoil and grass would not be a better covering for the site than the crushed concrete that is currently in place. Their environmental engineers have said that topsoil could wash into the waterway.
Kimberly-Clark spokesman Bob Brand said the crushed concrete is both permeable and stable. The concrete came from the demolition remnants of the former mill buildings.
“There’s no safety issue,” he said. “As the owner of the property, we have a responsibility and a right to do what we think is best.”
The city rejected the proposal to use crushed concrete as a cover in the area in a letter dated August 20, 2013. According to the letter, much of the concrete used in the area is contaminated and does not meet the unrestricted cleanup standard. It does, however, meet the industrial cleanup standard.
“We want them to uphold their obligation,” Pembroke said.
Brand said there is also a possibility that whoever buys the property will remove the topsoil and grass before building something on the site. Bringing topsoil onto the site means truckloads of dirt would be hauled through the city.
“We’re disappointed that (the city of Everett) would take the approach they’re taking,” Brand said. “We’re surprised by it, but we will defend ourselves if we have to.”
The next step for the city is to file the lawsuit, which Pembroke said will likely occur within the next month.
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