Local

Cleanup for future waterfront park could cost $16 million

A boom to control oil seepage is visible in this May 21, 2013, photo of the R.G. Haley site on Bellingham Bay. The oil was taken care of in a previous cleanup plan. The city is seeking comment on its current plan for dealing with contamination as the area is converted into a city park.
A boom to control oil seepage is visible in this May 21, 2013, photo of the R.G. Haley site on Bellingham Bay. The oil was taken care of in a previous cleanup plan. The city is seeking comment on its current plan for dealing with contamination as the area is converted into a city park. The Bellingham Herald

It could cost $16 million to clean up contaminated soil on property that will one day be part of the city’s waterfront park at the end of Cornwall Avenue.

The city of Bellingham, with oversight from the Washington state Department of Ecology, has completed a study of toxic chemicals found on what’s known as the R.G. Haley site as well as cleanup options.

Ecology will hold a Thursday, Sept. 17 meeting about the project that will include a discussion of the preferred cleanup for the property at Cornwall Avenue, near Wharf Street.

The site includes five acres owned by the city and one acre, considered state tidelands, managed by the state Department of Natural Resources. There also is a larger in-water area managed by DNR.

The cleanup is expected to start in 2017, the same time it should begin on the former Cornwall Avenue Landfill at a cost of about $9.1 million. The two sites, which are adjacent to each other, will make up the future waterfront park now informally called Cornwall Beach Park.

The city bought the R.G. Haley property in 2009 from Douglas Management Co., paying only $1 but agreeing to take on the cost of environmental cleanup. The area is vacant and fenced off.

The property was used for a number of industries from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, including for lumber, coal and wharf operations.

Companies treated wood there for many years. R. G. Haley was the last, operating a wood-treatment plant for 30 years before stopping in 1985.

The soil that’s away from the water, marine sediment and groundwater in the site are contaminated with wood-treatment chemicals, according to Ecology.

For the upland portion of the site, the preferred cleanup option includes containing the most contaminated soil that’s near the shoreline, about 15,000 cubic yards, by encasing it in cement and placing a low-permeability cap on about seven acres to keep people from coming into contact with and rain from seeping into the pollution. Such caps are at least 2 feet thick and include surface layers such as clean soil, asphalt or concrete.

For the marine piece, the preferred cleanup includes removing the most contaminated sediment from the beach/intertidal area, about 7,700 cubic yards, and putting that beneath the cap upland, and then capping the excavated area with clean sand.

The cleanup received an initial nod from environmentalists, who also said they planned to dig more into the proposal.

“I am very excited to see the R.G. Haley cleanup moving forward and keeping pace with the Cornwall Avenue cleanup, especially since there is quite a bit of overlap of contamination between the two sites,” said Wendy Steffensen, North Sound Baykeeper for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

“I urge folks who care about water quality and Bellingham Bay to attend Ecology’s meeting on the 17th to learn more and to then provide formal comments,” Steffensen said.

Ecology will reimburse up to half of the city’s cost through the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances. The city doesn’t yet know where the other half will come from.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

Public comment

People can comment on the proposed cleanup for the R.G. Haley site through Oct. 14.

Send comments or questions to: Mark Adams, site manager,Washington state Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Ave. SE, Bellevue, WA 98008-5452. Or email them to mark.adams@ecy.wa.gov. You can reach him at 425-649-7107.

More details: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites and type RG Haley into the window titled “Cleanup Site Name.”

Or find the cleanup proposal at:

▪ Ecology’s Bellingham office, 1440 10th St., Suite 102. The access is by appointment, so call Linsay Albin at 360-715-5200.

▪ Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave., 360-778-7323.

Public meeting

Washington state Department of Ecology is holding a public meeting about the proposed cleanup of the R.G. Haley site.

The meeting will be 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Fireplace Meeting Room at Bellingham Municipal Court Building, 625 Halleck St.

More details: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites and type RG Haley into the window titled “Cleanup Site Name.”

  Comments