County OKs letter to Ecology about scrapping facility, stormwater permit

Commissioners seek support for the remediation of Midway Metals

Clallam County commissioners have inked a letter to the state Department of Ecology seeking action on the Midway Metals site and stormwater permitting requirements.

Commissioners voted 3-0 on Jan. 21 to approve an amended letter that asks the state agency to help address the illegal scrapping facility at 258010 U.S. Highway 101 and Ecology’s decision to issue Phase II stormwater permit coverage for two small unincorporated areas outside of Port Angeles.

“I just would like to call out (county planner) Diane Harvey, whose idea it was to try and take this creative approach,” board Chairman Mark Ozias said after the vote.

“I very much hope that it comes to some positive fruition.”

The five-page letter to Ecology officials and the North Olympic Peninsula’s legislative delegation seeks state support for the remediation of Midway Metals and reconsideration of a Phase 2 stormwater permit determination that Ecology issued Dec. 23 for two small unincorporated areas within the Port Angeles urban growth area.

The final version of the letter includes an amendment suggested by staff Hydrologist Carol Creasey reminding Ecology that Clallam County is following state regulations for highway runoff.

“That sounds like a fine addition that will not impact the intent of the letter,” Ozias said at the meeting.

“It will just serve to strengthen it.”

The letter was addressed to Ecology Governmental Relations Director Denise Clifford and sent to agency 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 think that there is an opportunity for Ecology and the county to work together to try to solve some of these problems,” said Jeff Zenk, an Ecology regional spokesman, in a Tuesday interview.

“The challenge has been the owner (of Midway Metals) is very difficult to work with.”

Midway Metals has operated 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 told commissioners in a Jan. 13 work session.

The scrapyard has been listed as a “priority 1” contamination site by Ecology since 2008, Harvey said.

It is polluting the soil and groundwater with mercury, lead, cadmium, hydrocarbons, arsenic, total chromium and other chemicals, Harvey told commissioners.

In a September ruling, Clallam 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.

A woman was reached Friday on a phone number an Ecology report said belonged to Haymaker, but she hung up after she was asked if she was Haymaker.

“The county has the sole authority to regulate solid waste, so there is some responsibility on the county’s level to enforce the solid waste regulations,” Zenk said.

“The cleanup portion is problematic because we are not able to work with the owner, and ultimately it may require us to fund the cleanup ourselves and then go after the fact to collect the damages and money spent on that.”

According to the letter approved by commissioners, 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 on the stormwater issue to a pollution control hearings board and was denied a request for mediation, 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 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.”

Zenk said the county’s appeal of the stormwater permit determination will be heard by the Pollution Control Hearings Board.

“They will ultimately decide what happens with that,” Zenk said.

“I can’t really comment beyond that, but it is in front of the hearings board.”

Zenk said the onus falls on Clallam County to stop further contamination of the Midway Metals site.

“We at Ecology take toxic cleanups and illegal, unpermitted facilities like this very seriously,” Zenk said in a telephone interview.

“We understand the county’s frustration, but would also hope to be able to work them to resolve it.

“I just want to emphasize that we’ve had a good working relationship with Clallam County and hope to continue that moving forward,” Zenk added.

“I know that these two issues are challenging and frustrating for the county. We hope that they can be resolved and we can continue a good partnership.”