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Toxins found at old sawmill

Site in Klickitat needs to be cleaned up

Field work by the Washington Department of Ecology has found several contaminants at the defunct International Paper (Champion) sawmill at Klickitat, and a contractor is expected to begin cleanup efforts soon.

Last week, the DOE -- which has been working in conjunction with Klickitat County -- issued a summary of the findings uncovered in a field investigation that took place last August and September.

Discovered at the former mill site were:

Petroleum hydrocarbon soil contamination, found in two locations;

Lead at levels that exceed soil cleanup levels, found in two locations;

Diesel that exceeds the groundwater cleanup level, one location;

Arsenic in soil, one location.

DOE's field work included taking samples at 27 test pits on the mill site; analyzing 34 soil samples; installing 10 monitoring wells; analyzing five sediment samples; and analyzing two surface water samples.

"Frankly, the hits they got were well below what I had feared," said Tim Hopkinson of the Klickitat County Solid Waste Department. "What contaminants might have been there in the past have been flushed away in the fractured soils in the area."

The Champion mill at Klickitat closed permanently in 1994.

New York-based International Paper purchased Champion in June 2000 in a $7.3 billion cash and stock deal, thereby inheriting its assets as well as its liabilities. IP is the world's largest paper and forest products company.

International Paper and consultant URS are in the process of preparing a work plan that will recommend additional sampling and planned removal actions at the mill site. URS is a Seattle-based environmental contractor that works on environmental cleanup for International Paper.

Further field work at the Champion site in Klickitat is expected in March and April.

Hopkinson added that he expects URS cleanup crews to be mobilized on the mill site by the beginning of April. Cleanup will require removing contaminated soil from the site.

After completion of further field sampling and analyzing the results, DOE and Klickitat County plan to hold a public meeting to advise citizens of the results.

No date has yet been set for the public event.

The upcoming meeting is also designed to provide an update on how to handle asbestos contamination at the mill, which is being treated separately from the other concerns.

"We still don't know who is liable for the asbestos cleanup costs," Hopkinson said.

However, he noted that a Yakima asbestos abatement firm estimated the asbestos removal work at Klickitat would cost about $200,000.


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