Thursday, June 3, 2010

Community Questions Cascade Pole Cleanup and Future Area Use

Above: Community members discuss the issues after tonight's meeting about the cleanup of the former Cascade Pole area, now known as Northpoint, on the Port of Olympia peninsula property. In the foreground, community members Zena Hartung, right, and Rachel Newmann, to her right, speak with a student from the Environmental Science class at South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC). Several students from the class were in attendance as a class assignment.

In the background, SPSCC student Travis Rodriguez, 24, left, speaks with Jerry Parker. Rodriguez, recently honorably discharged from the Navy, said that this was his first community meeting. "It was very educational. Now I feel like I can be more involved! What's cost effective? They said it's too expensive to dig it (the soil) up and haul it away! What kind of price can you put on human life - and sea life?" Rodriguez expects to transfer to The Evergreen State College in the Fall of 2011.

by Janine Gates

About 20 community members met with state Department of Ecology staff to discuss the continued clean up of the former Cascade Pole site, now known as Northpoint, on the Port of Olympia property. Port employees were present, as well as Port Commissioner Bill McGregor.

The agreement with Ecology requires the Port to continue cleanup activities which includes removing contaminated soil from the Northpoint area of the Port peninsula, moving the soil to another area, capping it, then sampling the soil after excavation to ensure all contamination was removed.

After a brief overview of the clean up requirements by Ecology's Cascade Pole site manager Mohsen Kourehdar, community members asked clarifying questions. Comments were not documented as this was not a public hearing. Comments may be submitted to Ecology through June 10.

Kourehdar summarized Cascade Pole's 25 year history, saying $26 million has been spent on cleanup of the site so far. The agreement marks the last major piece of cleanup work on the 17-acre former industrial site.

The Cascade Pole Wood Treating Company leased property from the Port from 1957 - 1986. Operated as a wood treatment facility, area soil, groundwater, surface water and sediments in Budd Inlet was contaminated. The Port of Olympia, Cascade Pole and Ecology entered into an agreement in 1990 to investigate the site and explore cleanup alternatives. After a settlement with Cascade Pole, the Port took responsibility for cleanup in 1996. A remedial investigation was completed and several interim actions were taken.

Above: The former Cascade Pole site now known as Northpoint as it looked today. To the left is HearthFire Restaurant and KGY Radio station. Surrounded by a chain link fence, the area is not accessible to the public. On the right is Priest Point Park.

Proposed interim cleanup actions include removing contaminated soil from Northpoint, near KGY Radio, and moving it to inside an existing "slurry wall" next to a containment area. The stored soil is proposed by the Port to be paved with asphalt. This is proposed by the Port to be completed by mid-October.

According to Ecology's cleanup plan, the groundwater will be tested every six months, and sediment testing will be done every five years. Later in the conversation, Kourehdar said, "We will be monitoring this area for the rest of our lives. It's just a containment system...we have to watch it."

Several community members have been meeting regularly with Port staff and commissioners to explore a process for allowing a thorough public discussion to occur regarding the Port's land use decisions.

"(The process) shouldn't be developer driven. We're collecting information too, and trying to understand where they're coming from. What we're trying to do is come to some agreement on a public involvement process," said Carole Richmond.

"Right now, the planning model for land use is backwards. They make their decisions and then let us know. That's the way it feels. We're looking for a win-win situation, because if we don't do that, we're going nowhere."

Agnieska Kisza, a local architect, has also been meeting with port staff and commissioners. "This is an exercise in democracy...I don't think we're taken seriously. A master plan is an important condition for the site, and to write a new program for the area."

Community members had several questions for Ecology staff related to earthquake liquefaction, sea-level rise, and the type of cap the Port proposes to use to contain the contamination. The port proposes an asphalt cap. Several community members have been urging the port to use a natural, vegetative cap. Others want the soil dug up and taken away for incineration.

Anthony Sanchez, a member of the Nisqually Tribe, said he personally wants the contaminated soil taken away. "I know it's expensive but the contaminants have definitely affected the fish. We're dealing with EPA regulations, but what's the reality?"

After the meeting, Sanchez said that his uncle used to fish in the Northpoint area in the 1960's. "We're a part of the story. No matter what happens there, we want to tell our story."

Kourehdar said that Ecology's goal is to protect human health and the environment for whatever cap is used, and that the agency is not requiring the Port to use asphalt. "If someone comes along with a different plan, we'll look at it. The cap does not have a definition of asphalt," said Kourehdar.

One large area of contaminated soil at Cascade Pole is already capped with asphalt and is a parking lot.

Kinza questioned the use of asphalt and whether or not it was responsible to contain contamination in an area susceptible to earthquake liquefaction. "We had a large earthquake, I mean, it survived," responded Rebecca Lawson, Ecology section manager for the Toxics Cleanup Program.

"Your point is a good one - I don't mean to sound dismissive - but we have to weigh the costs into the equation. I don't think there was a place to take soil with dioxins in it (when we started this project). Now there are, but they're very expensive. It's a challenge."

Monica Hoover, a citizen who has been meeting with port staff, said that based on recent information about earthquake magnitude and frequency, the 2001 Nisqually earthquake was not a big quake. She also questioned the use of asphalt to cap the site. "It's striking to most people just how much is (already) asphalt. You add that all up together and it's a lot."

Above: They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. A relatively unknown location, a few folks drive here to look at the view north to Budd Inlet during their lunch break.

Jerry Parker asked Kourehdar about dioxins and the life-span of the slurry wall currently being used to contain contaminants. "I did this calculation this morning because I knew someone would ask," responded Kourehdar. In 1996-1997, a 3,528 foot long underground "wall," with an average depth of 23 feet, was constructed surrounding the upland contamination.

"Dioxins are persistent. Because the slurry wall is 24 inches thick - based on lab hydrogeology experiments - it will take 32 years for a drop of water to travel from one side of the slurry wall to the other. Is it going to break down someday? Probably." said Kourehdar.

"I'm of the opinion that you've done the best you could at the time. As things change, we're adaptable," audience member Enid Layes told Ecology staff.

"The site shouldn't be developed," said community member Harry Branch, after the meeting. "I don't fault Ecology. They have an impossible task - I think they're doing an OK job. They should have another $10 million. They're trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear with two bits. Like the guy from Nisqually said, "Take (the soil) away. They did that at the city hall site. Why was that done right? Why not Northpoint?"

For more information on Northpoint, the Port of Olympia and the Cascade Pole area, please read other articles on this blog at

For more information on the history of Cascade Pole and the development of Northpoint, go to (Winter 2010 edition).

For technical questions and to submit comments that will be developed into a "Responsiveness Summary", contact Mohsen Kourehdar, Washington State Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program, (360) 407-6256 or Also see

To receive future notices about the cleanup or questions about public involvement, contact Meg Bommarito, Washington State Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6255 or

Above: Monica Hoover, right, speaks with Rebecca Lawson, state Department of Ecology Section Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program, after tonight's meeting.