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Port of Longview

Port of Longview Commissioner Doug Averett, left, and Port Director Norman Krehbiel, center, listen as Lisa Hendriksen, director of planning and environmental affairs, talks about the different options for cleaning up contaminated soils on Port property near the Brown Strauss steel yard. The area beneath them contains contaminated soils left over from International Paper operations decades ago.

International Paper Co. closed its Longview operations more than two decade ago, leaving behind 6,470 cubic yards of contaminated soil on land it sold to the Port of Longview. That’s enough to cover a high school basketball court about 15 feet deep.

Now the papermaker and the Port of Longview are at odds about how to clean up the contamination, which is spread over a 4- to 5-acre site. The port argues that if IP gets its way, tons of contaminated soil would still be left on the parcel, and that could compromise current and future businesses.

The state Department of Ecology is accepting comments now on proposals to clean up the site, including a preferred alternative proposed by International Paper and another alternative proposed by the Port of Longview. An open house will be held 5 p.m. Thursday at the Cowlitz County Event Center, followed by a public hearing at 6 p.m. Written comments will be accepted until Oct.2 at

Since the late 1990s, IP has been working on cleaning up the site. It formerly treated wood products and stored wastewater there. During cleanup, IP discovered additional contaminated soil beyond the boundaries of the original cleanup area.

IP’s proposal involves mixing soils contaminated with varying amounts of pentachlorophenol, diesel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (chemicals resulting from burning coal, gas other petroleum products). The soils would be blended with cement-like material to solidify the mixture. The mixture would expand and be stored in a mound covered with clean material and then encased in asphalt.

No actual toxins would be removed under the IP plan. The plan would create a sloped surface about four-to-five feet higher in elevation than the current surface. The process would actually expand the contaminated materials on site by about 40 percent.

The port says IP’s plan would render much of the site useless for economic development because the surface wouldn’t be flat enough for a laydown, or storage yard. It could also hinder future potential projects, such as a new tenant, an expansion of the industrial rail corridor or even a dump pit. IP’s proposal would likely even affect the port’s current tenant, Brown Strauss, which uses some of the space as laydown area for steel.

“It would be a mound!” exclaimed Port Commissioner Doug Averett Tuesday. “IP’s proposal would disrupt existing operations. If you disrupt that, if you make a mound, it would not be conducive to economic development.”

Under its alternative, the port has proposed removing about half of the contaminated soils and disposing it in an industrial waste landfill. The remaining 3,400 cubic yards would be mixed with cement-like materials and stored on site, but covered with three feet of clean materials with a flat asphalt surface.

Ecology says the port’s alternative would cost $1.5 million more than International Paper’s proposal, which is already estimated to cost about $4.2 million. Yet the port says Ecology grossly overestimated the project’s costs, and argues its proposal would actually only add $700,000. The port is almost certain that this cost will be covered by insurance.

The port has offered to pay for the difference between IP’s proposal and its own alternative. Port staff say they could save taxpayers money in the long run by removing more of the contamined soils now rather than waiting to remove the soil in future construction projects.

“What’s at stake is future jobs, future business development, fiscal responsibility and environmental responsibility,” Averett said.

International Paper officials said they’re committed to working with the port to clean up the property.

“We’ve been working constructively with the Department of Ecology in Washington state and our proposed remediation plan takes into consideration the Port of Longview’s concerns. IP is committed to completing the appropriate remediation,” the company said in a statement.

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