Public invited to comment on Cornwall Avenue landfill cleanup

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 22, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Proposed environmental cleanup strategies for the Cornwall Avenue landfill site are available for public review and comment now through Sept. 20, 2013.

The 16-acre site is on Bellingham Bay between Boulevard Park and the former Georgia-Pacific pulp mill. It is a key parcel in city and Port of Bellingham plans for a revitalized waterfront. According to preliminary plans, most of the site eventually would be turned into a new city park with a walkway over the water to Boulevard Park.

Today, the site is marked by large mounds of Squalicum Harbor dredge sediment covered with white plastic.

The Port of Bellingham, with Washington Department of Ecology oversight, compiled a draft report that details contamination found on the site and evaluates potential cleanup options. The draft report attempts to determine the most cost-effective way to protect human health and the environment.

Ecology officials will host a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Bellingham Public Library lecture room to provide more details and answer questions. A presentation begins at 7 p.m.

The land was used for sawmill operations for nearly 60 years, dating back to the late 1800s. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the final resting place for city trash. That waste was covered with a layer of soil in 1965, and the property was used for warehousing and log storage until 2005. In 2011, the 47,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment were placed on the site and covered with plastic as part of an interim cleanup to reduce leaching of contaminants from the site.

There are more than 295,000 cubic yards of municipal waste and 94,000 cubic yards of wood waste buried at the site, according to the Department of Ecology.

For the upland portion of the site away from the water's edge, the preferred cleanup option includes a protective liner and cap of clean soil, an improved stormwater drainage system, a system to control landfill gas, and a legal covenant to provide permanent protection to these facilities.

For the shoreline and marine portion of the site, the preferred option includes stabilizing the beach to prevent erosion, a sand filter for groundwater treatment, a layer of clean sand over exposed refuse and wood waste near the shoreline, and monitoring of natural sedimentation further out in the bay.

The preferred cleanup option is estimated to cost $9.1 million. Ecology will reimburse up to half of the port's costs through the state's remedial action grant program, which helps to pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.

The draft report, known as a remedial investigation and feasibility study, is available for public review on the Ecology website, at Ecology offices in Bellingham and Bellevue, and at the Bellingham Public Library.

Written comments can be sent to Mark Adams, Ecology site manager, through Sept. 20 at mark.adams@ecy.wa.gov or 3190 160th Ave. NE, Bellevue WA 98008-5452.

Reach John Stark at 360-715-2274 or john.stark@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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