First major cleanup of G-P site slated for design in 2015

The former Georgia-Pacific West Inc. site on Bellingham's waterfront  is shown Sept. 19, 2013. The tall digester building in the center of the photo is due for demolition in 2015.
The former Georgia-Pacific West Inc. site on Bellingham's waterfront is shown Sept. 19, 2013. The tall digester building in the center of the photo is due for demolition in 2015. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The Port of Bellingham Commission has cleared the way for Aspect Consulting to start designing cleanup of the first half of the contaminated G-P West waterfront site near downtown.

With the commission’s approval Tuesday, Dec. 2, Aspect will receive up to $216,333 to start preliminary design work in the first half of 2015.

Half of that will be paid for by a grant from the Model Toxics Control Act, which is funded by taxes on crude oil and other potential pollutants that enter the state. The other half will be paid for by an insurance policy.

Aspect, which has offices in Seattle, Wenatchee, Yakima and Bainbridge Island, was the only company to apply for the work after the port put out a request in September.

During Tuesday’s commission meeting, Environmental Site Project Manager Brian Gouran reminded the three commissioners Aspect has been involved in many phases of the waterfront planning. Among other things, the company produced the feasibility study for cleanup of the first portion of the site and was involved in supervising an interim cleanup in 2013.

The agreement approved Tuesday notes that other phases are expected throughout the engineering and design process, and the total expected cost for design is higher.

“Usually design and engineering could be up to 10 percent of the total cost of a project,” Gouran said in an interview.

Aspect will design plans for removing contaminated soil and capping portions of the northern 31 acres of the 74-acre G-P West cleanup site, formerly home to a Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulp and tissue mill.

The 31-acre parcel, called the “pulp and tissue mill area,” contains acidic areas and contamination from metals, petroleum, volatile organic compounds and dioxin/furans, according to the Department of Ecology.

The first round of work will include taking more samples of groundwater and soil around what’s known as the Bunker C area near the northwest corner of the site, where soil is expected to be removed, Gouran said.

The company also will survey the parcel and draft a plan for capping contamination with soil, asphalt or buildings to eliminate the possibility people could come in contact with pollutants. Much of the site is already capped with existing foundations.

The draft plan will be submitted to Ecology for review.

The cleanup plans will follow the first of four options outlined in a feasibility study released earlier this year. “Alternative 1,” the cheapest option, was selected by the port and Ecology after public review as the best bang for everyone’s buck, stating the three other alternatives would have incurred additional cost without proportional increases in environmental benefits.

The plan carries an estimated $5.7 million cost, including about $770,000 already spent on an interim cleanup for the area.

It assumes 50 percent of the 31-acre area “would be capped by future building foundations,” which would be a cost to future developers, according to the feasibility study. The other half would be split, with 30 percent getting capped by pavement and 20 percent capped by soil. The soil capping alone is estimated to run about $3.1 million.

The pulp and tissue site cleanup is expected to start in 2016.