Mr. Karlberg’s speculations and insinuations about what I may or may not have read, and that I must have come from “another region,” (outer space?) disfigure his already poorly supported thesis, namely, that I’m somehow in favor of totally abolishing the Shipping Terminal and all its present and future activities from the waterfront. A careful reading of my piece should have made it clear that my complaints about the ABC Recycling contract are specific to that contract. My concern is with the potential harms of the ABC operation to the ecology of the environment and to human health. And I worry because the Port Commissioners have indicated they are in favor of soliciting other such contracts in future, irrespective of any similar hazards they may pose.
Mr. Karlberg’s assertions that, “The Port’s waterfront cleanup projects have left the water, land, and air cleaner than when Georgia Pacific operated a pulp mill and chlorine plant on this land,” are at best half true and only applicable to less than half the area sold to the Port in 2005 when Georgia Pacific terminated their activities.
The totality of the GP land acquired by the Port in 2005 was 74 acres, and showed contamination in two separate and distinct areas. In 2013, the Port and Washington’s Department of Ecology divided the site into two separate areas: the Pulp and Tissue Mill area, and the Chlor-Alkali area. The less contaminated Pulp and Tissue Mill area was cleared by removing contaminated soil and building materials. This cleanup was completed in 2016.
However, the 36-acre Chlor-Alkali Area, which includes the Shipping Terminal land, was heavily contaminated, especially with mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, to levels that were potentially harmful. This triggered Washington’s toxic cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act. This acreage is designated the “Chlor-Alkali Unit” and has required complex planning by the Dept. of Ecology and the Port before remediation can commence. It can be referenced online by the term Chlor-alkali RAU (Remedial-Action-Unit).
The subsoil in this unit is so contaminated by mercury that a Cleanup Action Plan includes the injunction that:
The Port and Ecology will develop an Environmental Covenant for the RAU that includes institutional controls restricting certain activities and uses of the RAU property to protect the integrity of the selected cleanup action and thereby protect human health and the environment.
This is the area upon which ABC Recycling is conducting the operations which first brought them to our attention, namely, the accumulation of giant mountains of scrap metal and their subsequent transfer to bulk transport vessels. These activities require a significant amount of crane and bucket use, plus scraping the dislodged scrap into piles for loading onto dump trucks. The combined weight of the metal scrap is likely on the order of 30,000 tons and is sitting on an asphalt “cap” over known toxic sludge. The sludge was treated by GP in 1977 using chemical fixation and then buried in that vicinity—without reliable information about the longevity of the detoxification “treatment.”
The short messages I wanted to convey in my article were only two: 1) Given the present state of contamination of the Shipping Terminal environs, it seems ill advised for the Port to adopt a “business as usual” stance with regard to shipping operations. And 2) Given the details of the Waterfront Sub-Area Plan, that Mr Karlberg is quite certain I’ve not seen, there is a pile-up of rusted metal directly in line with one of the “view corridors” described in that document, which, at a minimum, is a thumb in the eye of the planners.
The transition from the old land use plans, in which every activity had its specific geographic area on the map, to the Urban Village plan where the designation “Industrial Mixed Use” replaces “Heavy Industrial” and “Light Industrial,” suggests the Port should adopt a more nuanced view of the kinds of shipping that are compatible. And “business as usual” should no longer be acceptable.