Soil tests from land west of Sequim reportedly have levels of heavy metals and heavy oil that could pose a risk to the surrounding environment, including surface and groundwater.
The Washington state Department of Ecology recently added 41 new sites to its list of hazardous sites planned for cleanup, one of them is land Midway Metals occupies between Sequim and Port Angeles.
The hazardous site cleanup list ranks locations with higher rates of contamination than state law allows on a scale of 1-5, with one being the highest level of concern.
The property at 258010 Highway 101 was ranked 1 and Ecology representatives are beginning to take the next step, creating a cleanup plan.
"The site is rated at 1, so there are concerns of impacts on the environment and, potentially, human health," Ecology spokesman Seth Preston said. "There will be a process of identifying potentially liable parties to find who will be responsible for participating in the cleanup."
Preston said the agency is in early stages of making an analysis and a determination for responsibility, indicating Midway Metals had not been blamed and that eventual cleanup duties for the metal recycler had not been ruled out.
Tests that turned up higher-than-acceptable concentrations of cadmium, lead and heavy oils were taken at three locations on the property.
"I took samples near the highway where there was lawnmower, propane tank and tire storage; on the middle tier of land where there was an assortment of stored items; and near a structure they call the battery shed, where automotive batteries are stored," said Jennifer Garcelon with Clallam County Environmental Health. "In this situation, the occupant has been actively on the land for more than 20 years, which really played into why testing was done."
Cadmium was found in high levels in all three samples, at times more than double or triple the applicable standard. Lead and heavy oils were found only in the battery shed area. Lead levels were 12 times the standard of 250 parts per million and oil levels were five times the standard of 2,000 parts per million.
Garcelon also tested for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, but none were found.
Garcelon said she reports about a dozen locations a year to Ecology for a determination as to whether a soil test is needed. Ecology generally receives its reports from the public, other agencies or field agents.
Midway Metals is about five miles west of Sequim on the highway and is very close to the west side of McDonald Creek. It is in a residential zone, grandfathered into the location due to its long history on the site.
If Midway Metals is determined to be responsible for the contamination, it may conduct a voluntary cleanup program or allow Ecology to organize a cleanup, which it would take part in.
In Washington, more than 10,000 sites have been listed as in need of a cleanup. More than 80 percent of those sites have been cleaned or are in the process of being cleaned up. The rest are awaiting action.
Cleanup is required whenever toxic contamination is above limits set in the state's Model Toxics Control Act, a 1989 citizen initiative that established a broad-based program for cleaning up and preventing toxic contamination.
The law states those responsible for the contamination are financially responsible for its cleanup.
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