Cleanup of West Bay begins

OLYMPIA — Cleanup crews could begin hauling away tons of contaminated soil in July from what will become West Bay Park.

If it happens, it will be the first major step to clean up about 5 acres of the old industrial area, a major puzzle piece of a planned 17-plus-acre waterfront park along West Bay.

The Olympia City Council on Tuesday approved the final $1 million necessary to begin the cleanup work — a $2.3 million operation. It’s part of a $2.9 million first phase of improvements, said Julie McQuary, project coordinator for the city parks department. About $500,000 is from a grant from the state Department of Ecology.

“The majority of the cleanup will be done this year,” she said. But the city first has to get permits, and to minimize disturbing fish, it can start no sooner than July 15. It also has to accept bids and award a contract for the work.

The site was home to two sawmills and is contaminated with heavy fuel oil and some metals, said David Dinkuhn, project manager with Parametrix, the city’s environmental consultant.

He said the cleanup should take six weeks.

Where old cracking pavement and – plants exist, the city plans native vegetation, a hike-bike trail and 10 parking stalls.

The design isn’t final because of concerns from the Squaxin Island tribe about water quality and salmon habitat, McQuary said.

Seven Rotary clubs in Thurston County have adopted a small point of land on the acreage that they are calling Rotary Point.

They hope to raise $175,000 for improvements — in addition to the $2.9 million already set aside — to bring landscaping, benches and paved walkways, said Bob Wubbena, community volunteer coordinator for the Downtown Olympia Rotary. The point already offers views of the Olympic Mountains and the Capitol dome.

The cleanup is relatively simple; crews must dig deeply enough to remove all the contaminated dirt and backfill it with clean dirt. They will haul the bad dirt to a landfill in Eastern Washington or Oregon that is equipped for such contamination.

Some activity is under way on the site. Dinkuhn was analyzing soil samples collected from the site this week by driving large metal tubes into the ground.

Larry Ross, an archeologist with the Squaxin Island tribe, picked through the samples to see evidence of historic settlements below 5 to 6 feet of fill for industrial activities. He was looking for items such as stone tools, hammer stones and projectiles.

He said he didn’t find anything of note.

The park is closed to the public until the work is finished.

“I think when the site gets cleaned up ... the community will be really pleased,” McQuary said.