Ongoing local interest in the state and federal process of determining where approximately 20,000 cubic yards of hazardous waste material — currently stored in three Fire Mountain Farms sites in Lewis County — may end up was a primary topic of interest tackled by two Department of Ecology representatives, who contacted The Chronicle earlier this week.
During a Tuesday morning conference call with The Chronicle, Ecology’s Southwest Regional Office’s Section Manager Peter Lyon stated that a condition of the “delisting” of the mixed material in question would be that it be placed in a permanent municipal waste landfill, also referred to as a Class or Subtitle-D landfill, that typically serves as the destination for household garbage.
Petitions submitted by both Fire Mountain Farms and Emerald Kalama Chemical to Ecology and the EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to delist the waste — or reclassify it as non-hazardous — are currently pending, as Ecology will continue to accept public comment on the requests until Dec. 12. Both the state and federal agencies will review the submitted feedback.
If and when those petitions are granted, as per Ecology, that the actual delisting work may commence within a month or two thereafter.
“I can’t speak for the EPA, but Ecology is committed to getting this out as soon as we can,” said Ecology Environmental Engineer Greg Gould. “Realistically, I would say sometime in January. At that point, the companies are required to submit to Ecology what we call closure plans. Basically, what those plans do and say is how are the companies going to manage the waste from taking it out of their storage locations, putting them on trucks and then shipping them to a landfill.”
That plan, he added, is another step in the process that residents will have an opportunity to comment on before approval.
Lewis County, he said, has “no permanent municipal landfills,” which would ensure that the refuse would be relocated outside of the county.
Robert Thode, president of Fire Mountain Farms, also said his company would unequivocally be required to haul the waste to a site outside of Lewis County.
Where exactly that location is has yet to be determined, according to Lyon, who merely added that it may be somewhere in Washington or Oregon.
As for whether the composition of the material is in any way hazardous to local residents, Gould maintained that the waste has been tested and that no evidence of toxicity has been found.“We have determined that there are pollutants that are below the applicable environmental standard that don’t pose a threat to human health and the environment,” he said when specifically asked if traces of benzene were identified in the examination.
Lyon’s claim was seconded by Thode, who reported that his stored organic mixture of waste and industrial sludge — from Emerald Kalama Chemical’s industrial wastewater treatment facility—had never had any benzene detected in it in 25 years of analytical testing. He further noted that toluene— a clear, colorless naturally occurring substance used in the production of paint thinners, adhesives, benzene, plastics and other materials—was only “once” discovered in his material in the past 25 years.
When a suitable landfill is ultimately found, the facility would have to “agree to accept the material,” explained Lyon. In addition, other government agencies would also be called upon to further inspect the disposable mixed material in the relocation process.
The State Health Department will authorize a permit for the proposed dumping if it occurs in Washington, while the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will perform that same administrative duty if the site is located beyond state lines.
In a subsequent email, Ecology’s Communications Manager David Bennett clarified: “The licensed municipal solid waste landfill that the mixed material (reclassified as solid waste) will be relocated (to) will not be required to notify the public or provide any public process because it will have already have been permitted to accept material of this nature, and therefore would have already gone through a permitting process.”
The email also pointed out that the delisting procedure that Emerald Kalama Chemical and Fire Mountain Farms are currently navigating is an “administrative process” that happens regularly around the country. The communication further states that the proposal is not a special process that set up or developed explicitly for this situation.