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April 21, 2021

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Lake River dredging to get underway

Project will clear out chemical pollutants near Millers' Landing

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter
Published:
5 Photos
Dredging equipment sits ready to go Monday next to Lake River.
Dredging equipment sits ready to go Monday next to Lake River. Crews are preparing to begin a several-months-long dredging project in Ridgefield, where contaminants from an old wood treatment plant still sit in the sediment beneath the river. Photo Gallery

Crews are well underway on the latest step in cleaning up a contaminated former industrial site on Ridgefield’s waterfront, and are preparing to begin dredging Lake River this month.

More than two decades after Pacific Wood Treating went bankrupt and left the property known as Millers’ Landing, Lake River still contains a number of chemical pollutants. The state Department of Ecology declared the land ready to be built upon in October 2013, but the sediment beneath Lake River remains full of creosols, dioxins and pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative known to cause cancer.

The Port of Ridgefield, which owns the 43-acre property, has big plans for long-term development on the site as an extension of the city’s downtown area just beyond the BNSF Railway tracks. Port and city officials envision Millers’ Landing eventually taking shape with inviting new businesses and waterfront homes, but today the land sits vacant, aside from the port’s office.

In the meantime, the port is working with the Department of Ecology to finish cleaning what was once considered one of the most contaminated places in the state. Overall, the cleanup has come at a cost of more than $73 million.

Now, crews have closed Division Street and other nearby work areas and brought in equipment to remove the polluted sediment beneath Lake River and clean the water.

Dredging will continue on the site through spring as crews remove pilings and debris, lay clean sand over the dredged areas and restore the shoreline. The removed sediments will be shipped to the Cowlitz County Landfill.

Carty Lake restoration

In all, this latest chapter of the long-running cleanup is estimated to cost upwards of $4.4 million. That’s on top of another $1.4 million cleanup project on Carty Lake on the east end of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Throughout August and September, crews excavated the lake bed, pulling up sediment contaminated with chemical waste and chromium and arsenic, toxic substances known to cause cancer. This month, they began planting native wetland plants around the lake to restore the site. Similar restoration work will continue on Lake River after the dredging.

In June, the port began digging up soil contaminated with dioxins from the area where a new railroad overpass is under construction. The project included plans to cover the area with two feet of clean soil, which would lie beneath a new section of Pioneer Street.

Pacific Wood Treating operated on the site for nearly three decades, pressure treating telephone poles and railroad ties with chemical preservatives before shutting down in 1993. Cleanup work began in 1996, and the full extent of the contamination did not become clear until the end of the 1990s.

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