A rural parcel of land contaminated with toxic pollutants is also becoming a longstanding eyesore on the outskirts of Tumwater.
City officials along with counterparts with the county and state Department of Ecology have been stymied in their efforts to clean up the property.
A voluntary clean-up agreement was never fulfilled by former owner Ken “Bud” Franks. Franks , who was foreclosed upon by Bank of America, still lives on the site. A lot of accumulated garbage has built up on the 4.16 acres.
That is in addition to soil and groundwater contamination from petroleum and metals including lead. The latter pollutants have put the parcel on a state list of hazardous waste sites since 2013.
Neighbors are right to be frustrated by the seeming lack of cleanup action since citations were first in 1998 for illegal dumping and polluting wetlands.
Assistant city administrator Heidi Behrends Cerniwey said the city has upgraded its code enforcement in recent years and will be looking more closely at whether it needs more legal tools in its belt to deal with thorny land-use issues such as this one.
As a result of that focus on codes, Behrends Cerniwey thinks the Frank property will not fall off the radar this time. She also said the city and Thurston County, which has jurisdiction over solid waste issues, are each working to file notices of code violations with the new owner.
The hope is that the bank will move relatively quickly to clean up the site. If the bank is not cooperative, the city could use its civil abatement process to coerce a cleanup.
The city has just $20,000 in its accounts for that, and surface cleanup at the Frank land is estimated at about $100,000. Cleanup of toxic soils would be far more.
Another option is condemnation. But that can be difficult and could make the city liable for pollution on the site.
There are always risks to making home and property loans, and those risks appear to have come home to roost for Bank of America. As owner it should assume its responsibilities for the mess, and we encourage the city to follow through on its plan to get in touch soon with the lender.
The lending arm of the bank should take steps to remove the accumulated trash from the site at 2921 54th Ave. SW. It should also work with Ecology and local authorities to deal with the deeper pollution issues on this troublesome site. The parcel is within 600 feet of a well that provides drinking water to a few dozen homes, but at this point the city lacks any evidence of contamination of wells.
This is truly a thorny situation that has festered for too long. The easiest and best thing for all is if Bank of America, the city and county can cooperate as much as possible. It’s time to clean up this mess.