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Public invited to comment on Cornwall Avenue landfill clean up

Aerial view of the Conrwall Ave Landfill cleanup site

The public is invited to comment on proposed options for cleaning up the Cornwall Avenue Landfill site on the Bellingham waterfront through Sept. 20.

The Port of Bellingham, with Washington Department of Ecology oversight, compiled a draft report that details contamination found on the site and evaluates potential cleanup options.

Ecology is hosting a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wed., Aug. 28, at the Bellingham Public Library in the Lecture room to provide more details and answer questions. A presentation begins at 7 p.m.

The approximately 16-acre cleanup site is located on the waterfront between Boulevard Park and the former Georgia Pacific pulp mill. It is most recognizable today for the large mounds covered with white plastic.

Extensive sampling found hazardous substances in the groundwater, soil and sediment.

The land was used for sawmill operations for nearly 60 years, dating back to the late 1800s. And as a city landfill for 12 years in the 1950s and '60s. The waste was covered with a layer of soil in 1965, and then the property was used for warehousing and log storage until 2005. In 2011, about 47,000 cubic yards of dredged sediment was placed on the site and covered with the white plastic as part of an interim project.

It's estimated that there are more than 295,000 cubic yards of municipal waste and 94,000 cubic yards of wood waste buried in the ground.

Some of the contamination associated with this waste includes: tannins and lignins, phenols, ammonia, manganese, benzene, phthalates, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

The draft report uses a cost-benefit analysis to identify a preferred cleanup option that protects human health and the environment through a variety of containment and control features.

For the upland portion of the site, the preferred option includes a protective liner and layer of soil (known as a cap), an improved stormwater drainage system, a system to control landfill gas, and a legal covenant to provide permanent protection to these facilities.

For the shoreline and marine portion of the site, the preferred option includes stabilizing the beach to prevent erosion, a sand filter for groundwater treatment, a layer of sand over exposed refuse and wood waste near the shoreline (known as a cap), and monitoring of natural sedimentation further out in the bay.

The preferred cleanup option is estimated to cost $9.1 million. Ecology will reimburse up to half of the port's costs through the state's remedial action grant program, which helps to pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.

The draft report - known as a remedial investigation and feasibility study - is available for public review on the Ecology website, at Ecology offices in Bellingham and Bellevue, and at the Bellingham Public Library.

Written comments can be sent to Mark Adams, Ecology site manager, through Sept. 20 at or 3190 160th Ave. N.E., Bellevue WA 98008-5452.


Published:  August 23, 2013

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