The state could tell the Port of Bellingham to start work on a $12.6 million cleanup of the I & J Waterway site as soon as 2016, according to an environmental report by Department of Ecology.
The I & J Waterway is a 2.5-acre channel between Hilton Avenue and Bellwether Way on the Bellingham waterfront. Over the years it has been contaminated by nearby industrial tenants, including a pulp and tissue mill, rock-crushing plant, and frozen food and seafood processors.
Ecology is currently taking public input on a draft of its report for the area, which lays out a cleanup plan that both the state and the port prefer. The plan would ask the port to remove 18,000 cubic yards of contaminated material to a landfill and cap a 0.7-acre area with clean material to deal with nickel, mercury, carcinogenic hydrocarbons and other contaminants.
Another contaminated 1.1-acre part of the site is naturally getting covered with sediment from the Nooksack River, and part of the follow up for the plan would be to check over time that contamination levels keep going down.
“When we’re just above the cleanup standards, which are very low and very protective, we let Mother Nature do its job,” said Mike Stoner, the port’s environmental director.
About half the estimated $12.6 million project cost will be paid for with cash from the state’s Remedial Action Grant program, which is funded by the Model Toxics Control Act. The act taxes hazardous substances that come into the state to pay for cleanup projects. The port will work with a few of the tenants responsible for the contamination to pay for the other half.
People can submit their comments on the remedial investigation and feasibility study through Nov. 28 to site manager Lucy McInerney, Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, WA 98008, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The I & J Waterway report can be found online at ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites (search for "I & J Waterway") or in person at Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave. or by appointment at Ecology’s Bellingham office, 1440 10th St., Suite 102. To schedule an appointment, call Linsay Albin at 360-715-5200.
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