Though small, Gasworks may qualify for SuperfundJanuary 28th, 2011 by cdunagan
A small waterfront site in Bremerton could become the next federal Superfund site in Washington state. The site, called the Old Bremerton Gasworks property, has grown into a complex problem for cleanup agencies, as I describe in a story in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.
Old Bremerton Gasworks, the site of a former coal gasification plant, was first placed on the state’s Hazardous Sites List in 1995, with a top-priority ranking of 1 on a scale from 1 to 5.
Nothing much was said or done about the site until a few years ago, when property owners Paul McConkey and his son Trip began looking for a way to develop the waterfront property. A business park and marina were considered possible options. A portion of the site identified as hazardous is owned by Natacha Sesko, whose property has been included in discussions about future uses.
The federal Brownfields Program, which had expanded under
President George W. Bush, was created to clean up former industrial
sites and put them back into productive use. The program seemed
like the logical vehicle to study contaminants on the gasworks
property and help cover the cleanup costs.
An initial $200,000 study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency identified hotspots of contaminants, some associated with the old coal-gasification plant and others associated with operations that took place on the site after the plant closed in the early 1950s. See Kitsap Sun, Nov. 28, 2008.
Bremerton served as the local-government sponsor for the Brownfields study, but the city was required to own the property to obtain federal funding for cleanup, which could amount to half the total cost. Former Public Works Director Phil Williams envisioned an arrangement in which the city might get a park out of the deal, while the property owners could somehow remain involved in a venture to build a marina or business park.
Additional studies in 2009 outlined possible cleanup options for the site, ranging in cost from $339,000 to $2.9 million. The higher costs were associated with dredging sediments along the shoreline and installing a barrier wall to block migration of pollution into Port Washington Narrows. See my story in the Oct. 5, 2009, Kitsap Sun.
The site was beginning to look more complex than what might be accomplished with a straightforward removal of soils and installation of a few monitoring wells.
Tim Nord of the Washington Department of Ecology began meeting with the EPA and property owners, along with Cascade Natural Gas. Cascade had owned the property a short time after it acquired the gasification plant in the early 1950s — probably to obtain ownership of the gas pipelines and the Bremerton gas franchise.
Tim Nord was beginning to understand the complexity of this site.
“EPA’s work was not intended to be a thorough examination of what is there or what should be done with it,” he told me at the time. “We’ve kind of known all along that this is a nasty site… It is going to be a tough site by its nature, being on the water. We will meet with EPA and figure out the best approach.”
State funding for cleanup has become limited, as money has gone out to various projects and the Legislature has taken money out of the cleanup fund to help balance the state budget. Sites that contain mixed contaminants from a variety of sources throughout history can quickly get out of control if studies find that pollution has migrated offsite.
State and federal officials realized that more studies were needed at Bremerton Gasworks, but the project was beginning to look like something bigger than a Brownfields cleanup. Then came a leak of a heavy tarlike substance, which was discovered coming out of a pipe directly onto the beach below the gasworks property. The pollution created a sheen on the water when the tide came in.
A contractor excavated the pipe and capped the area with a clay mat. Cascade picked up the tab. But the cap is not a permanent solution. Kitsap Sun, Oct. 15, 2010.
Because of the complexity and unknown extent of contamination, unidentified costs and uncertain sources of funding, the Old Bremerton Gasworks property is starting to resemble a typical Superfund site. To become listed, it must proceed through a formal nomination and approval process, which I describe briefly in Sunday’s story.
If this site is approved and the investigation does not increase beyond the current 3.7 acres, it could become one of the smaller sites on the Superfund list — and the first added in this state since 2007.
Tags: Bremerton Gasworks, brownfields, Environmental Protection Agency, Gasworks, hazardous sites, Old Bremerton Gasworks, Pollution, Port Washington Narrows, Superfund, Washington Department of Ecology