Wednesday, January 19, 2022
Jan. 19, 2022

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Public will have chance to weigh in on Georgia-Pacific mill cleanup

Applications open for residents to serve on advisory group

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Seven months after at least 50 Camas residents and public officials urged the state’s Department of Ecology during an April 20 public hearing to push for more restrictive environmental cleanup standards at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in downtown Camas, the public will soon be able to weigh in on the mill’s future environmental cleanup efforts.

“The mill has been an active part of our community for over a century, and the site continues to be key for Camas and the region,” said Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association. “It’s critical that we get our community involved in its future, including how any contamination is cleaned up, since this influences how the site could be redeveloped one day.”

The association is accepting applications through Dec. 6 from community members interested in serving on a community advisory group that will guide public participation during the mill’s cleanup process.

“The advisory group will be a big part of helping us reach all corners of the community and provide strong, informed feedback to Ecology as they investigate and plan for cleanup,” Schulstad said.

The group will supervise the association’s public involvement consultant’s work; encourage public participation in the cleanup process; review technical materials; respond to Ecology and GP regarding the cleanup process and findings of the investigation into potentially harmful chemicals at the mill site. Advisory group members are expected to meet every other month starting in December through the summer of 2023, according to the association.

Camas residents and officials began weighing in on the cleanup process in the spring, after Ecology issued a draft of an agreed order for future hazardous material cleanup at the Camas paper mill.

At a virtual public hearing with Ecology held April 20, residents said state officials should consider future, nonheavy industrial uses for the 135-year-old mill site when issuing environmental cleanup orders.

“The fate of the mill is probably the biggest thing to impact downtown Camas since the city was founded,” Camas developer Rick Marshall told Ecology staff on April 20. “Any cleanup of the mill should really consider the most likely reuse of that property, and it is likely to be mixed-use. Our community will fight vigorously for access to the waterfront and most successful repurposes of old waterfront industrial sites typically include public access to the water.”

Shingo Yamazaki, the Ecology site manager, has explained that the state wants to understand “what, where and how much” contamination is at the mill site during this first stage of investigation.

Ecology staff already know the GP mill site at 401 N.E. Adams St., in downtown Camas, which has been used as a paper and pulping mill since the late 1880s, has petroleum hydrocarbons contamination from diesel, gasoline and oil.

Now, Ecology hopes to determine what other pollutants, including dioxins and furans; heavy metals such as lead and chromium; polychlorinated biphenyls; carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, may be lurking in the soil and groundwater near the sprawling mill site in downtown Camas.

Yamazaki said the cleanup process would begin with a remedial investigation to find contamination sites at the mill site.

“This could take a couple years,” Yamazaki noted at the April 20 meeting. “It’s a large site, and we want to be very thoughtful and deliberate with our approach.”

Ecology is expected to provide a draft Remedial Investigation Work Plan for public review and comment in January. The community advisory group will submit comments to Ecology in the spring, and the state will likely finalize its remedial work plan in the summer, with a cleanup action plan expected in 2023 and site cleanup scheduled to begin in 2024.

To learn more about the cleanup process at the Camas paper mill, visit bit.ly/3l0qfqz. To be considered for an appointment to the community advisory committee, fill out an application online at bit.ly/2ZfboAJ.

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