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January 12, 2016

Kimberly-Clark Mill site readying for next phase

Snohomish County Tribune

Angela Cooper-McCorkle

After more than 80 years as a pulp and paper mill and three as a pile of unwanted, contaminated rubble, the former Kimberly-Clark site is poised to complete a clear makeover.

While now a vacant dirt lot with a toxic legacy from decades of mill operations, the state Department of Ecology, in conjunction with the city and Kimberly-Clark, is finalizing its "to do" list for the site's cleanup and will present the plan to the public this spring. A final round of cleanup work could begin in the fall.

Progress has been plodding since the plant was shut down in 2012 and demolished in 2013.

After delays and disagreements regarding the disposition of tons of debris, the city of Everett filed suit against Kimberly-Clark in August 2014.

The disagreement is over how Kimberly-Clark plans to fix the site. The city, which asserted dominion over the site's redevelopment, says the site should have grass and topsoil placed over it. The company differs, saying that a layer of crushed concrete is not a problem.

The lawsuit has cost Everett $112,000 to date, according to city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke.

Come spring, the public will get to hear results of the latest site investigation report, which will summarize the findings on area contamination and outline possible cleanup methods. A public comment period is slated for late summer or early fall.

A lengthy list of carcinogens and other toxins, some well-known, others obscure, including arsenic, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and dioxins have already been identified at the 56-acre upland lot.

The compounds can cause cancer as well as reproductive and immune system dis-orders and brain damage.

Kimberly-Clark stands by its decision not to overlay the site with soil as Everett had requested, spokesman Bob Brand said.

"The recycled concrete covering poses no safety issues for Everett residents," said Brand, who described it as industry standard method.

"We continue to believe that the recycled concrete is the most efficient and effective material to cover the site," Brand said. "It is the best option for managing run off and erosion and at some point, when the site is sold and redeveloped, it is likely that asphalt or some other permanent covering will be deployed by the new owner."

The waterway adjacent to the mill and the Port of Everett also needs cleanup.

Shoreline data did not show concentrations exceeding marine surface water safe levels, but the pathway used for ships is being further evaluated, Ecology spokes-man Seth Preston said.

The paper producer has already completed extensive investigations including more than 5,000 chemical analyses from soil samples at 250 locations plus groundwater samples of 86 wells, according to Preston.

"Interim cleanup actions from 15 areas have removed about 38,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil-close to 2,000 dump truck loads- and 6,000 gallons of petroleum-impacted groundwater," Preston said.

But while the Department of Ecology states the land is safe for future industrial worker exposure, it has not been cleared for unrestricted use, which is how the city zoned the property. The city wants the site fully cleaned up of its toxins to make it available for any type of development in its long-term future. Residential uses such as waterfront condominiums have much higher standards of soil cleanup.

All parties are eager to see the site repurposed.

Kimberly-Clark is seeking to put the waterfront plot back into service through a sale.

The 66-acre main site and other parcels are currently listed with the brokership Kidder Mathews.

The only known offer to date, from Foss Maritime, fell through in early 2014.

There is currently "a lot of interest in the site in which I can't go into detail on," said Kidder Mathews vice president Matthew Henn.

The site's asking price is unlisted but Henn said it is in the mid-$30 millions.

Brand said that enough remediation work has already been completed that the company does not expect any remaining work to interfere with a property sale. The lawsuit has also not impeded progress at the site, he said.

The city is also motivated to move forward.

"It's important that we make a strong effort to recreate the family-wage jobs that were lost when the Kimberly-Clark mill closed in 2012," Mayor Ray Stephanson said in an email. "Maritime industry is a significant part of Everett's history and I believe maintaining a working waterfront is a critical piece of our future economic vitality. This site provides significant opportunities for rebuilding the West Coast's commercial fishing fleet, as well as positioning us to compete for state and federal maritime contracts."

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