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EPA testing at Love Overwhelming site

An EPA contract worker takes a water sample at the former Cliff Koppe Metals site in Kelso. Love Overwhelming is working with an EPA program to assess the site for contamination and develop it for affordable housing. 

Love Overwhelming is using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to help develop a former Kelso scrap metal yard into an affordable housing project.

Chuck Hendrickson, Love Overwhelming executive director, said the project should help ease the housing shortage in the county.

“It’s such a big need,” Hendrickson said. “That’s where the bottleneck is for finding and accessing housing for people.”

The property was the former site of Cliff Koppe Metals and has been unused for 15 years. Hendrickson said he met Koppe four or five years ago and was working with him on the project before Koppe died in January. Hendrickson said Koppe had agreed to donate the land for affordable housing.

Love Overwhelming acquired the deed for the five-acre property at 1610 South River Road a few months ago, Hendrickson said.

The nonprofit then applied for assistance from the EPA’s Targeted Brownfield Assessment program, which helps communities develop plans to clean up contaminated sites to benefit the public. EPA will pay $105,000 to test the site and help develop a cleanup plan.

“If it’s eligible under the program and we think it’s a good use, we will step in and offer the assistance,” Program Manager Brandon Perkins said.

This week, EPA contractors took water and soil samples from the site. Test results will determine how much the cleanup will cost and how to proceed. A report should be ready by spring, Perkins said.

Hendrickson said he expects cleanup will take about three years. Hendrickson said Love Overwhelming will pursue other grants to help pay for cleanup and development.

The City of Kelso is aware of the project, Hendrickson said. Zoning and utility development will affect how many houses will be built on the site, he said.

“No matter where people stand on homelessness, everyone I talk to says we need more housing,” Hendrickson said. “This will help with that.”

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