Cars move along Frank Waters Road next to a contaminated land site purchased by Robinett Brothers on Tuesday, in Stanwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Cars move along Frank Waters Road next to a contaminated land site purchased by Robinett Brothers on Tuesday, in Stanwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

County settles lawsuit over PCBs at former landfill near Lake Goodwin

At the landfill, Snohomish County accepted waste that may have included PCBs decades ago. The county’s insurer agreed to pay $415,000.

STANWOOD — Snohomish County’s insurer agreed in November to pay $415,000 for alleged contamination of land bought by a luxury homebuilder next to an old landfill near Lake Goodwin.

In exchange, the county will retain the potentially contaminated land.

Robinett Brothers has built communities of homes throughout Snohomish County, including Cartwright Meadows in Stanwood, Mountain View Estates in Lake Stevens and Spyglass Ridge in Monroe.

In 2018, the developer bought property on Frank Waters Road, west of Lake Goodwin, according to filings with the county assessor. Just south of that land is the former Lake Goodwin landfill that has been out of commission for decades, owned by the county.

At the landfill, the county accepted solid waste for disposal that may have included polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, alleged a lawsuit Robinett filed in June 2021 against Snohomish County. The federal government banned the production of PCBs in the late 1970s because they caused cancer.

The county may have also disposed waste containing pesticides and polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Found in coal, crude oil and gasoline, the federal Environmental Protection Agency believes some of the chemicals can cause cancer.

The landfill site is awaiting cleanup due to the suspected contamination, according to the state Department of Ecology. The agency suspects contaminants, including PCBs, are in the soil, with other contaminants possible in the groundwater.

Contamination was confirmed to exceed state Model Toxic Controls Act cleanup levels at the Lake Goodwin property, according to Ecology.

The Robinett lawsuit also alleged county documents indicate nitrate contamination above cleanup levels. Groundwater at the property also reportedly exceeded quality standards for sodium and arsenic.

The complaint claimed the contaminated groundwater flowed north of the landfill property onto Robinett land. The developer believed the county hadn’t tested the soil or groundwater at the old landfill for three decades.

In cases involving the Model Toxics Control Act, the county’s insurer covers all of the liability, Snohomish County Prosecutor Jason Cummings said. So the insurance company handled the Robinett case.

They eventually negotiated a settlement signed in November for $415,000. The settlement notes it is “not intended to be, and shall not be construed as, an admission of liability.” The money isn’t paid for with taxpayer dollars.

As part of the agreement, Robinett had to give the property back to Snohomish County as a vacant buffer to the former landfill for any future development, said Cummings, who was the chief civil deputy prosecutor before voters elected him to the top job last year.

“Owning that buffer is definitely a positive for us,” county spokesperson Kent Patton said. “We don’t have any angst about it.”

Through its attorney, John Houlihan, the developer declined to comment.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439;; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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