The warehouse (lower left) and vacant land of the former Kimberly-Clark paper mill on the Everett waterfront, as seen in October. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

The warehouse (lower left) and vacant land of the former Kimberly-Clark paper mill on the Everett waterfront, as seen in October. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Environmental cleanup beginning at waterfront mill property

Kimberly-Clark has until the end of 2020 to remove the pollution, per pact with the Port of Everett.

EVERETT — Crews are about to kick off the cleanup of a prime-but-polluted piece of shoreline real estate.

By March 15, contractors of Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark will be at work on the roughly 60-acre waterfront site that once housed a paper and pulp mill, Port of Everett officials said last week.

The port, which took ownership of the site on Nov. 1, plans to build a cargo terminal there. But first, crews must decommission shoreline pipes, remove an estimated 12,000 tons of contaminated soil, and haul away 180,000 to 200,000 tons of crushed material left over from the mill’s demolition after it closed in 2012.

The company has agreed to finish the job by the end of 2020.

Meanwhile, port officials are trying to satisfy questions that the U.S. Department of Transportation has raised regarding a federal grant that the agency awarded to the project days after the port finalized the $33 million purchase.

The $15.5 million grant, from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, is expected to cover roughly half the cost of readying the land for cargo, said Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber. If the federal agency rescinds the grant, the port’s plans to finish the addition in 2021 would be thrown into “chaos,” she said.

But port officials aren’t sounding the alarm bells yet. Department of Transportation officials asked them to provide more details about what the money would be used for by mid-February, Lefeber said.

“When I originally got the news, I was extremely concerned and was taking the issue very seriously. Since that time I think we’ve gotten more clarity,” Lefeber said. “As of right now, I’m cautiously optimistic that our answers to their questions will satisfy the department’s concerns, and we will be able to move forward.”

On March 2, at federal transportation officials’ request, the port provided more information about the acquisition, as well as details related to the project budget and timeline.

When the port applied for the grant last summer, it requested the money to not only pay for construction, but also offset the cost of acquiring the land, Lefeber said.

Port officials hope to have the site under construction as soon as the cleanup is done.

In 2013, the state oversaw an interim cleanup that required the removal of roughly 39,000 tons of contaminated soil and more than 6,000 gallons of petroleum-laden water.

But some soil at the site is still contaminated with metal, petroleum products, chemical compounds known as PCBs and other pollutants, according to a state-approved cleanup plan.

The state-mandated plan also will require shoreline pipes to be plugged to prevent groundwater from discharging into the nearby East Waterway, and groundwater pH to be monitored as crushed material is removed from the site under another cleanup plan that will be overseen by the Snohomish Health District.

The crushed material will be recycled by one of five approved companies, and the contaminated sediment will be taken to a landfill, said Catherine Soper, a spokeswoman for the port.

The port will provide coarse sand, dredged from the upper channel of the Snohomish River, to replace the removed soil and rubble, Lefeber said.

Last month, the Port Commission OK’d a $2.6 million on-call engineering services contract with Seattle-based KPFF Consulting Engineers, giving the port access to a slew of services needed to move the mill site into the construction phase.

The site, located between the port terminal and Naval Station Everett, includes a nearly 400,000-square-foot warehouse that will be leased to a private user, Lefeber said. About 13 acres of the some 60 acres included in the purchase are tidelands.

Kimberly-Clark had been marketing the property since the mill shuttered in 2012, leaving hundreds of people without jobs. Over the following years, sales stalled due to disagreements over who had to clean up the polluted land.

Port commissioners voted to condemn the land in June, despite protests from well-established figures in the seafood industry who had plans to buy the land and other members of the community who wanted to see the site in private hands.

As part of the purchase, the port received a $17 million credit to clean up the East Waterway, which borders the mill property.

As the mill site cleanup begins, nearby residents will hear noise during regular work hours, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. People will likely also notice increased truck traffic to and from the site, similar to what was seen when the mill operated.

Dust will be contained on-site, said Soper. Crews are taking extra dust control measures, such as using a truck wheel wash and stationing a water truck there to wet roads.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the project’s impacts may call the Port of Everett’s 24/7 Construction & Noise Hotline at 425-388-0269.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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