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Ecology taking comments from public on portion of GP West cleanup site until Nov. 1

A view of Georgia-Pacific West site from across Whatcom Waterway in Bellingham. The public has until Nov. 1 to comment on a plan to move mercury-contaminated soil that’s been sitting on the site to an approved landfill.
A view of Georgia-Pacific West site from across Whatcom Waterway in Bellingham. The public has until Nov. 1 to comment on a plan to move mercury-contaminated soil that’s been sitting on the site to an approved landfill. philip.dwyer@bellinghamherald.com

The public has a chance to comment on a plan to move mercury-contaminated soil that’s been sitting on the Bellingham waterfront to an approved landfill.

The plan addresses only a portion of the contaminated Georgia-Pacific West site at 300 W. Laurel St., said Krista Kenner, a Washington State Department of Ecology spokeswoman. A feasibility study to explore options for cleaning up the entire site is expected to go out for public comment in early 2017, Kenner said.

The work for this plan is scheduled to be complete in March and is expected to cost about $1.5 million, according to Ecology. Half of that comes from the Model Toxics Control Act, which is a tax on hazardous substances that move through the state, Kenner said. The Port of Bellingham will cover the other half.

Ecology will take comments on the project until Nov. 1.

The contamination is leftover from former Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulp and tissue mill operations, Ecology said. The Port of Bellingham has owned property on the site since 2005, and plans to use it for commercial, retail and residential.

Cleanup at the site began in 2013, when Ecology started removing mercury-contaminated building materials and about 2,300 cubic-yards of contaminated soil, Ecology said. But the project turned up about 600 more cubic yards of contaminated soil than officials expected. That soil has since been covered with thick plastic until it could be moved to an approved landfill.

Comments on the plan can be submitted to Brian Sato, Ecology’s site manager, at brian.sato@ecy.wa.gov or by phone at 425-649-7265.

Ecology will also host a public meeting about the project if at least 10 people request one, Kenner said, adding that the department had received six requests as of Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 19. Those requests can also be sent to Sato.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

More information

Documentation on the project can be found online at the Department of Ecology website, ecy.wa.gov, by searching “Georgia Pacific West” and clicking the top result, or in paper at these locations:

Bellingham Public Library: 210 Central Ave.

Ecology Bellingham Field Office: 1440 10th St., Suite 102

Ecology Northwest Regional Office: 3190 160th Ave. SE, Bellevue, 98008-5452

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