Asarco pollution cleanup resumes in Tacoma area

TACOMA – Workers resumed cleaning up polluted soil in residential yards near an old Tacoma-area Asarco smelter site on Thursday, and were expected to resume similar work in about a week in Everett, with a mix of company, local, state and federally authorized funds, officials said.

“They’ve been at my house all day today,” said the Rev. David Alger, who lives near the Point Defiance Elementary School.

Much of the work to remove tainted soil from private property was halted Aug. 10 when Asarco LLC, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico SA, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Officials said a bankruptcy judge in Texas this week approved an Asarco request to allow the withdrawal of money from the company’s national environmental trust fund to resume cleanup on about a dozen residential properties near the site of the old copper smelter in Ruston, near Tacoma.

The Environmental Protection Agency also authorized the fund’s trustee to disburse $150,000 and pay MRC Construction of Ruston for completing the soil removal, EPA project manager Kevin Rochlin said.

MRC owner Michael Urquhart said he hoped to complete the work within 30 days.

Associated Press

Seattle: Hearings on proposed whale hunts

The federal government will hold three hearings in October to gather public comments on a proposal by the Makah Indian tribe to resume hunting gray whales in waters off their reservation at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

The meetings are part of a review required under federal law that will eventually lead to publication of an environmental impact statement on the hunting by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

These steps were prompted by the tribe’s February request for a waiver of whaling restrictions imposed by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled last year that the tribe, although its 1855 treaty specifically allows continued whaling, must comply with that law and obtain a waiver from the fisheries service before it can proceed with a hunt.

The tribe has done no hunting since then, mostly because of ongoing litigation. The decision to resume hunting after the recovering gray whale population was taken off the Endangered Species List drew heated opposition from some animal-rights groups. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society maintained a presence at Neah Bay for months before the hunt.

Associated Press

Oregon: Plane crash kills Longview pilot

A single-engine plane crashed and caught fire in eastern Oregon Wednesday, killing the pilot.

James Ylvisaker, 72, of Longview was the only person on board when the plane went down nine miles north of Monument, said Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.

Palmer, who examined the wreckage, told the Baker City Herald that Ylvisaker might have been trying to land the plane after its engine stopped. Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration office in Portland, along with an official from the National Transportation Safety Board office in Seattle, were expected to start the official investigation Thursday afternoon.

Associated Press

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