DEQ holds public meeting in Toledo regarding cleanup of Fred Wahl site
A public meeting between Toledo residents and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regarding the cleanup of the Fred Wahl Marine Construction shipyard drew at least 15 community members, fishermen, business owners and concerned citizens.
There were no pronouncements against the shipyard or proposal for the Port of Toledo to operate the boatyard after the purchase closes, and many attendees were in favor of the project, wanting to know why the process has been held up.
“We need that dry dock operational,” said one attendee, Gene Law. “This community has lost millions [from] that dry dock not being operational. This could have been a huge economic boon to the community.”
“It’s kind of misleading to say that all this contamination is because of the shipyard,” said Jim Seavers, a former Fred Wahl Marine employee. “We need this place; we need to get it going. It would have been nice to have it done two years ago.”
Greg Aitken, a representative of DEQ’s Environmental Cleanup Program, said that who did what when “really doesn’t much matter” in this situation. The Fred Wahl Marine site is not a high priority site for the DEQ.
“If it weren’t for this transaction and the port’s plan to clean it up, it probably wouldn’t get cleaned up for quite a while,” Aitken said. “This is a pretty simple site,” Aitken said.
It has been two years since the Fred Wahl Marine Construction site closed in Toledo, but Port of Toledo Manager Bud Shoemake said the port has been working on this deal longer than that. Shoemake, a former employee of the Fred Wahl Marine site and of the Port of Newport, said Wahl notified the port of his intent to close his business a year or two before he actually closed.
The testing is nearly complete, with just two sets of samples awaiting test results, and the port’s consultant, Heidi Bullock, of Landau Associates, Inc., said the results should be back within a week or two. The port still has work to do in completing and submitting a dredging and disposal plan, as well as a sampling analysis plan, to ensure that once the dredging is done, all contaminants have been removed.
Dredging is expected to take a single day, although Shoemake said the boatyard will have to be shut down to complete the process because the dry docks have to be moved.
Once the DEQ scrutiny is done, the port will work with the Department of State Lands (DSL) to get a sublease on the property, until the property is cleaned up to DEQ standards, said Mary Camarata, DEQ project manager. At that point, the port can get a full lease from DSL.
The purpose of the consent judgment is to protect the Port of Toledo from potential liability for discharge of hazardous substances prior to the port’s purchase of the former shipyard property.
According to documentation from DEQ, the site is contaminated with benzo(a)pyrene, arsenic, tributyltin (TBT) and copper, and there are several ways that the contaminants can be removed.
Camarata said that the cleanup has been instituted not because of potential health risks to humans who use the Yaquina Bay and complete the cleanup, but due to potential health risks to marine life and plants in the bay.
In return for the Prospective Purchaser Agreement and protection from liability for historical toxic discharges, the port must complete a cleanup program approved by DEQ and grant “irrevocable right of entry” to DEQ representatives and allow the agency to inspect and copy documents related to the agreement. Both organizations are required to notify the other when sampling or analysis is required. Every quarter, the port is required to submit progress reports until there is a determination of “No Further Action” by the DEQ.
In 2008, the Port of Toledo attempted to pass a general obligation bond that would have assessed 30 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, and raised funds to purchase the boatyard. The measure failed and instead, the port sought other means of funding the purchase and cleanup, including a $1.2-million revolving loan fund from the Oregon Business Development Department and $350,000 OBDD Infrastructure Finance Authority grant.
Cleanup costs aren’t expected to exceed an estimated $160,000, but the port has received a Brownfields Redevelopment Fund Grant of $250,700 from Business Oregon to cover the costs of the cleanup.
Camarata would not commit to a timeline for absolute completion of this project, but Shoemake said the port would “like to be open and running by December.”
April Bamburg is a reporter with the News-Times. Contact her at 541-265-8571 ext. 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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