Monday, August 1, 2016

Cleaning Up: Snohomish spill site now preserved for farmland

The former RiverBend property is preserved for farming. (Forterra photo)
For years, the site of a past fuel spill carried the stigma of contamination.

Now, thanks to the Forterra conservation group and our Toxics Cleanup Program's Bellevue-based staff, the Snohomish County property is considered cleaned up and classified as preserved for farming.

An accident, then contamination

The 140-acre RiverBend Investment Co. site is located at 4304 State Route 530 NE in the Arlington area. In July 1992, a truck towing a tractor had an accident while traveling on Highway 530 near the property. The tractor ended up on its side near a driveway at the property.

The tractor spilled about 100 gallons of diesel fuel within about 30 feet of the Stillaguamish River. The responsible party cleaned up about 20 cubic yards of contaminated soil -- but the soil was stockpiled at the property.

Then in 2004, some leaking underground storage tanks were found on the property. They were dug and removed, along with 40 cubic yards of contaminated soil. But that soil was stockpiled too.

Digging into the past

The property changed owners a few times, and there was no clear record of what happened to the stockpiled soils. Eventually, a new owner contacted the Toxics Cleanup Program to find out if the site needed further cleanup before the property could be sold.

Dale Myers, a site manager in our Bellevue office, worked with the owner to determine the site's condition. A couple of dozen soil samples and samples from two groundwater wells showed no detectable levels of contamination. We issued a "no further action" (NFA) finding, meaning the site is now considered to be cleaned up.

The owner then sold the property to Forterra so the organization could maintain the land for farming instead of developing it for housing or other uses.

A 'community win'

Media reports focused on the successful preservation effort, including this TV news broadcast and this newspaper story. 

Michelle Connor, Forterra executive vice president, wrote to thank our staff for their part: "I wanted to extend deep appreciation from the entire team at Forterra for Department of Ecology’s efforts to assist us in working through the cleanup and technical work needed to receive an NFA letter related to an historic 140-acre farm near Arlington. ... Department of Ecology played a critical role in this community win."

This is just one example of how a site that's thought to be contaminated can find new life through the cleanup process.

By Seth Preston, Toxics Cleanup Program communications manager

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