Washington Dept. of Ecology to oversee first phase of cleanup at former GP pulp, tissue mill in Bellingham, Washington, estimated to cost US$1M, to remove projected 8,000 tons of contaminated soil that could enter bay bound groundwater

BELLINGHAM, Washington , November 4, 2011 (press release) – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) will oversee the first phase of Port of Bellingham work starting Monday to clean up targeted areas of contamination at the Georgia-Pacific West state cleanup site, 300 W. Laurel St.

The site was contaminated during past operations at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and tissue mill, which operated at the site from 1926 to 2007.

Starting Monday, workers will prepare to remove an estimated 8,000 tons of petroleum-contaminated soil and debris from what is called the Bunker C tank area at the northeast end of the site. Fuel oil was used to make steam heat for the mill operations.

This cleanup is important because contamination in this area could enter groundwater and move toward Bellingham Bay.

Contaminated soil removed from the site will be taken to a licensed, permitted facility for disposal. Contaminated groundwater will be treated and disposed of across Whatcom Waterway in the industrial wastewater treatment lagoon under to an existing wastewater discharge permit.

The port hired Strider Construction of Bellingham for this phase of the work. The port is performing the interim action according to an Ecology-approved work plan under a legal agreement.

This phase will cost about $1 million. Ecology will reimburse up to half the port’s costs for work performed at the G-P West site. Reimbursements come from the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The state Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

In the spring of 2012, the port will complete the second phase of work under a separate contract. During that phase, workers will remove an estimated 400 to 500 tons of mercury-contaminated soil and debris, and demolish a building that contains contaminated materials in what is called the caustic plume area at the west end of the site. Mercury was used in this area in the production of chlorine gas and sodium hydroxide.

These actions are considered interim because they don’t address the entire site. During the interim work, the port will continue to develop its state-required comprehensive environmental study of the entire site (remedial investigation), followed by an analysis of cleanup options (feasibility study).

Ecology expects to release the remedial investigation and feasibility study reports for public comment in 2012.

G-P West is one of the 12 cleanup sites in the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot – a multi-agency collaborative effort to integrate cleanup, control of pollution sources, habitat restoration and land use. The pilot program is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound, and it is a model for other large-scale cleanup initiatives.

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