Olympia gets EPA grant to help turn around contaminated West Bay waterfront

The city of Olympia has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess contaminated waterfront property in the hopes of spurring redevelopment.

The money comes from the EPA’s Brownfields Program that funds assessment and cleanup of abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

A news release from the EPA said $500,000 of the grant is for hazardous substance assessment and $100,000 for petroleum contamination assessment. The EPA expects the city, the Port of Olympia and the Olympia Metropolitan Park District to conduct two dozen assessments projects and five cleanup plans with the money.

Assessment activities will focus on the peninsula and West Bay neighborhoods, the EPA news release said.

It is unclear which sites the money will go toward, but two possibilities are the former Reliable Steel and Hardel properties along West Bay Drive.

The Reliable Steel property, developed as a lumber mill and later used for steel fabrication and welding, was the site of several fires in recent years. A previous investigation by the state’s Department of Ecology found several contaminants in the soil, stormwater runoff and Budd Inlet sediments.

The Hardel site was used for logging and lumber related businesses starting in the 1920s until in a massive fire destroyed a plywood plant there in 1996. In 2010, Hardel paid to remove contaminated soil and treat groundwater, according to Olympian archives.

A city press conference Wednesday to announce the grant was held at West Bay Park to the south of both sites.

“Just look to the north, you will see remnants of our industrial past. You can also see what could become some of the most beautiful waterfront properties in Olympia,” said City Council member Lisa Parshley. “But before anyone can take a property like this, from what it was to what it could be, we need to know what the contaminants in the soil are.”

Olympia’s planning documents list redeveloping contaminated waterfront properties as a priority. But that can be a long and costly process, says Leonard Bauer, deputy director for the city’s planning department.

“It’s investigating what’s underground, so it’s really hard to know what we’re talking about,” he said.

Elsewhere in Washington, Brownfields grants were awarded to projects in Sedro-Woolley, Spokane, East Wenatchee and on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.