Port proposes split of Bellingham waterfront cleanup site

With a new report from the Washington Department of Ecology detailing contamination across 74 acres of Bellingham waterfront property, the Port of Bellingham wants to divide the cleanup site into two separate areas, allowing for earlier cleanup and redevelopment of the northern half.

An in-depth environmental investigation shows that the soil and groundwater contamination is extensive across the site. It also shows that the contamination is found in two separate and distinct areas.

The contamination was left behind by Georgia-Pacific West, which operated a pulp-mill in the area for much of the 20th century.

The port now owns most of the land and has put considerable effort into probing and sampling the site as part of the step-by-step process required by the Washington Department of Ecology, which oversees the port’s cleanup work.

All the data gathered by the port is laid out and described in a formal report known as a remedial investigation. And Ecology is making the report available for public review and comment.

“With the contamination where it is on the site, we have a good opportunity to separate the site into two cleanup areas and advance cleanup and redevelopment on the northern portion,” said Brian Gouran, Port of Bellingham site manager, in a press release.

On the northern end of the site where Georgia-Pacific West operated a pulp-and-tissue mill, the investigation found contaminants including metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, dioxins/furans and acidic soil.

Where a chlor-alkali plant operated on the southern portion of the site, the investigation found mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons and alkaline soil.

Currently, the legal contract between the port and Ecology classifies the 74-acre site as one cleanup area.

In order to divide the site, Ecology and the port have to amend their legal agreement – known as an agreed order – to define two cleanup areas. Ecology is making the proposed amendment available for public review and comment.

Those interested in reviewing the draft remedial investigation report and the proposed amendment to the agreed order can find them on Ecology’s website, at offices in Bellingham and Bellevue, and at the Bellingham Public Library.

Comments can be submitted until July 17 to Ecology site manager Brian Sato at brian.sato@ecy.wa.gov or 3190 160th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98008.

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