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Temporary fix of seeping toxins into Bellingham Bay will cost $400,000

A boom to control oil seepage is visible in this May 21, 2013 photo of the RG Haley site on Bellingham Bay. The city faces interim cleanup costs to control oil seepage estimated at $400,000.
A boom to control oil seepage is visible in this May 21, 2013 photo of the RG Haley site on Bellingham Bay. The city faces interim cleanup costs to control oil seepage estimated at $400,000. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - The city faces expenses of about $400,000 to install a temporary fix to stop toxic oil from seeping into Bellingham Bay from a city-owned site near the intersection of Wharf Street and Cornwall Avenue.

The R.G. Haley wood-treatment plant operated there for many years, and the soil is contaminated with the toxic chemicals that were used there before that plant shut down in 1985. The city purchased the site in 2009 from Douglas Management Co., paying only $1 but agreeing to take on the cost of environmental cleanup, estimated at anywhere between $3 million and $9 million at the time.

About 10 years ago, Douglas Management installed some temporary measures to reduce the seepage of chemicals, in cooperation with the Washington Department of Ecology. But in December 2012, an oily sheen was spotted on the waters nearby, and the city installed floating booms and absorbent pads to control the problem.

A complete cleanup of the site is not scheduled to begin until 2015, but the leakage is forcing the city and state to take action now. Although plans are not yet complete and approved by the state, it appears that the city will patch up the leaking area of shoreline by covering about 5,000 square feet with clean material.

Assistant City Attorney Amy Kraham said the state is expected to reimburse the city for half the $400,000 cost of the temporary fix, using state cleanup fund money generated from a voter-approved tax on potential pollutants entering the state.

The city has money for the project in its own environmental account set up to cover this and other cleanup projects, Kraham said. The 2013 city budget contained about $1.1 million for the fund.

The temporary measures to contain the seepage are scheduled to be put in place in September 2013.

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