Clallam County commissioners will consider on Jan. 21 a letter to the state Department of Ecology seeking support for the remediation of the Midway Metals site east of Port Angeles.
The proposed letter to Ecology Governmental Relations Director Denise Clifford also questions the agency’s decision to issue Phase II stormwater permit coverage on “a bunch of gutters and ditches” on two small unincorporated areas outside of Port Angeles, Code Enforcement Officer Diane Harvey said.
“We believe that these two Ecology matters should be cooperatively resolved by communication between our staff and yours in order to create sensible solutions and bring to bear our mutual expertise and our equal concern for the environment without subjecting Clallam County to economic hardship, and overly stringent permit conditions that will greatly tax the resources of the County, and greatly inhibit its ability to provide to its citizens critical services,” the proposed letter says.
“We are asking for you to intervene in both these matters and treat us as partners who can sit at the negotiation table rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of staff hours in litigation mode.”
Midway Metals is polluting the soil and groundwater with mercury, lead, cadmium, cPAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), oil-range hydrocarbons, arsenic, total chromium and other chemicals, Harvey told commissioners in a work session last Monday.
The scrapyard at 258010 on the south side of U.S. Highway 101 between Port Angeles and Sequim has been listed as a “priority 1” contamination site by Ecology since 2008, Harvey said.
Midway Metals continues to operate as an unlawful metal-scrapping facility with no Ecology stormwater permit or stormwater management despite having ditches that flow directly into McDonald Creek about 1,000 feet away, Harvey said.
“The county has reached out to Ecology, the state AGs (Attorneys General) office, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the State Patrol and the state Department of Licensing in an attempt to get traction, and frankly help, in getting this matter resolved,” Harvey told commissioners.
“But we are no closer to any tangible resolution.”
A woman was reached Jan. 17 on a phone an Ecology water compliance inspection report said belonged to Haymaker, but she hung up after she was asked if she was Haymaker.
In a September ruling, county Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves found Midway Metals owner Katrina Haymaker in violation of Title 7 of the county code and fined her $750.
Haymaker had already accrued $14,000 in fines for violating county health regulations when the ruling was issued. She had told Reeves that the business would build a fence at least six feet tall around the property.
Commissioners directed the Department of Community Development to continue pursuing a cleanup of the site in September.
The proposed letter says Ecology had “not taken any substantial steps to assist us to resolve this serious public health, fire safety, aquatic life, stormwater and water quality issue.”
“While asking Ecology and other state government stakeholders to enforce stormwater, environmental and licensing laws concerning the Midway Metals site, Ecology determined, on a different front, to pursue Phase II permit coverage on a small MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer systems) that Ecology identified in two discrete areas in the unincorporated Port Angeles Urban Growth area,” the letter says.
“Combined, these two areas serve less than 1,000 people and have minimal stormwater issues.
“To say we were shocked at the permit coverage is an understatement.”
Clallam County has appealed Ecology’s determination to a pollution control board.
“We have asked the Department of Ecology for mediation and it has refused our request,” Harvey told commissioners.
“We also have another appeal opportunity, because on Dec. 23, 2019, Ecology formally issued the Phase 2 permit to us. Obviously, the lawyers will deal with that in another forum.”
The proposed letter to Ecology “seeks to reach out to the most senior Ecology decision makers in the belief that if these decision makers are actually made aware of the facts of both of these matters that they will do the right thing for the citizens of this county,” Harvey said.
Commissioners will consider approving the letter in their business meeting Tuesday. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in Room 160 at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St.
If approved, copies of the letter will be sent to Ecology Director Laura Watson, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D- Gig Harbor, state Sen. Kevin Van de Wege, D-Sequim, and state Reps. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles and Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend.
“I’m totally in support of this letter,” Community Development Director Mary Ellen Winborn told commissioners last Monday.
Commissioner Randy Johnson said he and Winborn had met with Ecology officials and encouraged the agency to focus on pressing issues like Midway Metals.
”Let’s focus what limited resources we have on the most difficult issues we have,” Johnson said.
Commissioner Bill Peach suggested a wide distribution of the letter.
“I get a lot of calls on this,” Peach said.
“Here is an example of something that should be simple.”
Commissioner Mark Ozias credited Harvey for her “creative thinking and the attempt to let common sense prevail.”
“We have no way of knowing whether this (letter) is going to be an effective strategy or not, but it is well worth a try,” Ozias said.