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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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Ridgefield checks for contaminated dirt near homes

By , Columbian Small Cities Reporter

As the Port of Ridgefield says its longtime waterfront cleanup efforts are near completion, a recent inspection turned up dangerous contaminants downtown.

Now, officials with the port and the Department of Ecology are concerned that dioxins — known carcinogens — from the former wood treating site may have seeped into yards just up the hill from the waterfront.

Investigators will test the affected area, eight blocks with 38 homes between Maple and Mill streets.

Pacific Wood Treating operated on 24 acres of the Lake River waterfront for three decades, until declaring bankruptcy in 1993. It used the land to chemically and pressure-treat telephone poles and railroad ties. The residue seeped into the land, silt and water around the plant, creating one of the state’s largest environmental cleanup sites. After Pacific Wood Treating left, Ecology and port investigators found hazardous contaminants including arsenic, chromium and pentachlorophenol.

Signs of a need for further soil testing in downtown date at least as far back as 2013, when investigators found elevated levels of contaminants in that eight-block area.

This week, port CEO Brent Grening issued a press release expressing his contamination concerns.

“When ingested, dioxins at high levels may cause cancer,” Grening wrote. “To find out if dioxins are present, Ecology is looking to take and test soil samples from these yards.”

The samples will be small and won’t damage lawns or landscaping, he said. Investigators will also survey property owners and tenants to learn more about where normal activities might have deposited dioxins.

All of this comes little more than two months after the port filed suit against Union Pacific to recoup some of the $90 million in cleanup costs. While Pacific Wood Treating was in business there, Union Pacific owned two acres of the site.

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