Everett still waiting for cleanup of former mill site

EVERETT — The city of Everett is anxious to return a vacant plot of land on its waterfront to industrial use.

The 66-acre site of the former Kimberly-Clark pulp mill has been empty since the mill closed in 2012 and the buildings were demolished.

When it was announced last week that a cargo handling company planned to set up shop on the parcel, many people cheered the possible arrival of 100 more jobs to Everett’s working waterfront.

There’s a hitch, however: The city sued Kimberly-Clark in 2014 over what it contends is the company’s failure to properly clean up the property.

When the Dallas-based company vacated the property, it pulverized the former mill buildings, then spread 120,000 cubic yards of debris on the surface.

Soil on the former mill site has been found to be contaminated with arsenic, lead, cadmium and other toxic materials.

The city said that in issuing its demolition permit to Kimberly-Clark, it required the company to cover the debris with clean topsoil and grass. That would prevent the pollution from spreading while the state developed a long-term cleanup plan. The city is concerned that airborne dust might affect nearby neighborhoods.

Kimberly-Clark, however, said that taking those measures would make it more difficult to sell the property. The city and the company have been at an impasse ever since.

It’s not clear whether Kimberly-Clark or its potential new tenant, North American Stevedoring, would remove the debris before beginning new development on the site.

The city maintains the cleanup must happen first.

“We want jobs down there, we want someone to do something with the property,” Everett Deputy City Attorney David Hall said.

“In connection with any development proposal, there has to be a plan to clean it up,” he said.

North American Stevedoring has requested a meeting with city planners as a prelude to starting the permitting process, but a date hasn’t been set, city communications director Meghan Pembroke said.

Mayor Ray Stephanson met with representatives from North American Stevedoring in January and Kimberly-Clark in February, Pembroke said. She said both meetings were high-level preliminary discussions about North American Stevedoring developing the property.

The state Department of Ecology also has been conducting an investigation of the contamination that accrued over a century of mill operations there. That’s usually a multi-year process under the state Model Toxics Control Act.

“It’s a problem, but it’s been a problem for a long time and there is not usually the sense of urgency that we need to get in there and take immediate actions,” said Jay Manning, an attorney with the Cascadia Law Group, which has been representing the city in its lawsuit.

By depositing the debris on the site and leaving it exposed, Kimberly-Clark has created another environmental problem, because the toxins have leached into the ground water and made it very corrosive.

That in turn has caused the heavy metals in the debris and the soil to begin leaching into the groundwater and Puget Sound.

“They’ve made matters worse,” Manning said.

Last week, Manning wrote to Ecology to ask the department to take immediate enforcement action against Kimberly-Clark because of the problems caused by the uncovered debris. He also said the company “misrepresented the volume, quality, location, and environmental impact of the demolition debris it places on the mill site … ”

The city’s lawsuit has been on hold, Hall said, but the city is evaluating its options.

“Our position is the debris has to come off no matter what the cleanup will be,” Hall said. “If nothing else, it violates our zoning code. They’ve essentially created a solid waste landfill there.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A person walks in the rain at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
First heavy rain event predicted Sunday night for Snohomish County

Starting Sunday evening, 1 to 1½ inches of rain is expected in western Washington. It marks the end of fire season, meteorologists said.

Clinton man, 61, dies in motorcycle crash Friday

Washington State Patrol lists speed as the cause. No other people or vehicles were involved.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Separate road rage incident ends with fatal shooting in Lake Stevens

A man, 41, died at the scene in the 15300 block of 84th Street NE. No arrests have been made.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement partners advise the public of of colorful fentanyl.  (Photo provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration)
After rainbow fentanyl pills found in Tulalip, police sound alarms

Investigators are concerned the pastel-colored pills may end up in the hands of children.

Most Read