Environment News Service (ENS)

$50 Million Skykomish Oil Cleanup Proposed

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Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

Olympia, Washington (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology is proposing a $50 million, four year comprehensive cleanup and natural resource restoration plan for the Town of Skykomish, located about 50 miles east of Seattle.

The plan calls for the BNSF Railway to excavate soil and treat groundwater contaminated by oil under Skykomish, fund natural resource restoration projects and to coordinate the cleanup with the construction of a wastewater treatment system for the Stevens Pass community.

Ecology made drafts of the cleanup plan and consent decree with BNSF available for public review and comment at a public meeting this evening.

The consent decree includes a $5.5 million payment to the state by BNSF for damages to natural resources and lost services as a result of the oil contamination that occurred decades ago on railroad property and traveled under the town to the Skykomish River.

'The scope and complexity of this cleanup - with contamination spread under much of the town - exceeds any other in Washington,' said Tim Nord, who oversees this project for Ecology's toxics cleanup program. 'These proposals open the final chapter of an unwanted environmental legacy this community has endured for decades.'

A railway maintenance and fueling facility operated in Skykomish from the early 20th Century until 1974. Over the decades, bunker-C and diesel fuel oil were discharged to the environment on the rail yard. The oil then flowed downward to the water table, and under the town to the South Fork of the Skykomish River.

Cleanup projects off BNSF property will start in 2008 and continue through 2011. The work follows up on a 2006 project that removed contaminated soil along the town's western riverfront. BNSF replaced a levee, river sediment and soil beneath five houses, which were moved out of the excavation area for several months. Final work to restore streets and yards is under way.

The projects slated for the rest of the town include soil removal and replacement in some areas, in-place treatments to remove oil and vapors, temporary relocation of up to 25 houses and buildings, and restoration of wetlands in the former channel of Maloney Creek.

At the same time BNSF will perform cleanup on its Skykomish rail yard, which contains soil contamination from metals, petroleum and other materials, and oil-contaminated groundwater.

The company will remove and replace surface soils and will install an in-ground containment system to collect and treat contaminated groundwater and protect the rest of the town from re-contamination.

Other projects include $2.5 million for fish and aquatic habitat protection and restoration in the Skykomish and Snohomish watersheds; $1.5 million for terrestrial and waterfowl habitat projects and compensation for lost recreational opportunities; and, $1.5 million toward Skykomish's planned wastewater treatment project to protect ground and surface water quality.

'It's wonderful, after so many years of preparation, to see the horizon and beyond,' said Skykomish Mayor Charlotte Mackner. 'We appreciate Ecology and BNSF for their spirit and support.'

Ecology seeks public comment on a consent decree, which outlines the final cleanup plan and the natural resources damage assessment, a supplemental environmental impact statement, and other associated documents. Click here to view the documents.

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