0526 wtp cleanup plan

Cleanup Action Plan for Anacortes' former Water Treatment Plant site. (Courtesy / Department of Ecology)

The draft action plan for the cleanup of Anacortes’ former water treatment plant is 28 pages, but the cleanup is spelled out in four paragraphs:

The structures that are the source of PCB contamination will be demolished, removed and disposed of in a permitted landfill.

“Contaminated soil will be excavated and placed directly in a lined truck, covered and transported to a permitted landfill,” the plan states. “After excavation is complete, earthwork equipment will be decontaminated prior to leaving the Site … The excavation area will be regraded with imported clean backfill” to prepare the site for possible future use.

The public can read and comment on the draft cleanup action plan June 1-30 at www.bit.ly/Ecology-AnacortesFWTP. Comments can be made online at www.bit.ly/Ecology-AnacortesFWTP-Comments2021. An online public meeting is scheduled June 7, with a presentation by the state Department of Ecology from 4-5 p.m. followed by a question-and-answer session.

Ecology expects to finalize the plan this summer with cleanup taking place in 2022.

According to the draft cleanup plan, the city will have to obtain environmental, stormwater, demolition and grading permits from Ecology, the Northwest Clean Air Agency and Skagit County before work can begin.

Costs of the actual cleanup were originally estimated by Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer to be about $220,000. But those costs could be much more, City Attorney Darcy Swetnam said later, depending on methods used to prevent hazardous substances from being released during the demolition process.

According to the draft plan: “A detailed demolition plan will be developed prior to demolition activities. This plan will also include an environmental protection plan that will establish methods and procedures for protecting the environment during demolition.”

Cleanup will cap a six-year challenge for the city that began in 2015 when the former water treatment plant, located on River Bend Road in Mount Vernon next to the newer plant, was decommissioned and carcinogenic PCBs were found in soils next to the sedimentation and filtration basins where water was purified. The city immediately notified Ecology, but the public was not notified for two years.

From 2015-17, an outside law firm contracted by the city hired companies on the city’s behalf to determine the level of contamination and how best to clean it up, and Swetnam advised the City Council in closed session of pre-cleanup work being done.

The city spent $1.4 million before the public was notified of the contamination. The amount spent grew to nearly $1.8 million by the end of 2020, according to records obtained by the American.

Mayor Gere, who chose not to seek a third term this year, said Tuesday she feels “a sense of relief and accomplishment” that the draft cleanup plan has been completed and that the contamination removal is near.

“It’s important we get this done,” Gere said. “These materials were commonly used in construction in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Now, we have our incredible water treatment plant, a state-of-the-art facility. With our new clearwell and our new water line from the river to the plant, we are set for the foreseeable future.”

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