ST. PAUL WATERWAY PROBLEM AREA TACOMA, WASHINGTON
The St. Paul Waterway Area Remedial Action and Habitat Restoration Project is an example of how sediment pollution control may be successfully coupled with natural-resource restoration, allowing for a healthy maritime economy and marine ecology. The project is also an example of how early and open agency, tribal, and public consultation can result in community consensus and support for the environmental cleanup and restoration plan that emerges from these discussions.
In 1983, the Commencement Bay Nearshore Tideflats were placed on the priority list of sites requiring investigation and cleanup under the EPA’s Superfund authorities. In 1985, the Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company purchased a pulp and paper mill located at the mouth of the Puyallup River and within the federal Superfund site. There was extensive sediment contamination just off-shore from the plant site, resulting from 6 decades of mill operations that poured untreated effluent into Commencement Bay directly in front of the plant and created a 17-acre “hot spot” of toxicants (mostly phenols)—the St. Paul Waterway Problem Area (one of eight “problem areas” in the Superfund site requiring remediation).
Upon acquiring the mill in 1985, Simpson assumed a National Pollution
Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and an administrative order issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology), which required the construction of a new outfall. Encouraged by Ecology to address several environmental problems at the same time, Simpson began in 1986 to investigate and implement better control of sources of pollution at the mill and, together with Champion International Corporation (who acquired the mill as a result of a merger with the St. Regis Corporation shortly before its sale to Simpson), to plan remedial action for the contaminated sediments. This remedial action planning for the St. Paul Waterway Problem Area proceeded in parallel with the federal remedial-investigation/feasibility-study (RI/FS) process for the Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Superfund site.
The project was the first completed Superfund cleanup in U.S. marine waters and the first natural-resource damages settlement in the United States without litigation and with all federal, state, and tribal trustees (EPA 1991). It addressed tribal fishing rights, Section 404, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management, and Growth Management issues, as well as sediment cleanup.
Before proposing any actions, Simpson and Champion consulted with the Puyallup Tribe; environmental groups and interested citizens; federal, state, and local officials; and agency staff beginning in January 1987. Out of these discussions and after analysis of many remedial technologies, as well as their effectiveness in—and impact on—marine waters, a comprehensive environmental cleanup and restoration approach emerged (Weiner 1991). The approach included
A new outfall for the secondary treatment plant.
Permanent isolation of the contaminated sediments from marine life by capping the area with clean sediments from the nearby Puyallup River.
Habitat restoration and enhancement of nearshore and intertidal areas, including a long-term monitoring and adaptive management plan.
Preventive measures against future sediment contamination from the cap and the mill, including source control within the mill, monitoring, and contingency plans.
After site preparation and source-control actions initiated in December 1987, the 17-acre area was capped with clean sediment in July and August of 1988. The cleanup action was integrated with natural-resource restoration to produce new intertidal and shallow-water habitat in Commencement Bay, an
area that had lost about 90% of such habitat over the last 100 years. This new habitat was achieved through a cap that ranged in thickness from approximately 4 to 20 feet, depending on the area being capped and the desired tide-flat habitat elevations (Weiner 1991; Sumeri 1989, Sumeri et al 1994). The habitat restoration was based on an assessment of landscape-scale needs in the estuary and led to a more comprehensive restoration planning effort for Commencement Bay and the lower Puyallup River watershed in the 1990s.
As described above, the project is designed to provide (1) permanent isolation from the environment of chemical contamination found in marine sediments; and (2) restoration of intertidal and shallow-water habitat. Project monitoring, which included physical, chemical, and biological studies, occurred before, during, and after project construction. Monitoring before construction helped not only with project design but also with establishing baseline conditions for evaluating future monitoring results. Monitoring during and immediately after construction ensured pollution control and verified that the remedial work conformed to the remedial design.
In general, the tenth year confirmational monitoring results indicate that the project and new habitat are both functioning as planned (Parametrix 1999). The project provides habitat for diverse biological communities of benthic and epibenthic organisms, as well as algae. Shorebirds and salmon use the site for feeding and rearing, and tide pools observed at low tide are abundant with invertebrates. Productive shoreline habitat now exists at the project site where essentially no productive habitat existed prior to project construction. The cap-sediment elevations had minimal changes, with only minor redistribution of materials at higher intertidal levels. The project is now in the contingency monitoring phase of its adaptive management program. The project continues to be one of the lowest cost cleanups in Commencement Bay and one of the most cost-effective sediment cleanups undertaken in Puget Sound.
Sediment remediation projects can present opportunities for integrating natural-resource protection and economic redevelopment with sediment pollution control.
Community support is critical to obtaining permits and other regulatory approvals in a timely manner.
Community support is earned through early and open consultation and a role in shaping the cleanup strategy that will be chosen for the site.
Site-specific factors play an important role in determining appropriate and effective technologies for a given site.
In situ capping might be an effective technology for the sediment remediation and habitat restoration.
Long-term confirmational monitoring and an adaptive management program are necessary to ensure that a cleanup performs as designed.
Sediment cleanup can be successfully integrated with water quality, natural-resource damages, tribal fishing, brownfields, and growth-management issues to produce cost-effective, environmentally sustainable solutions in existing industrial harbor areas.
ASARCO TACOMA SMELTER
The Asarco Tacoma Smelter is located along Commencement Bay in Ruston, Washington, a small town surrounded by the metropolitan city of Tacoma. Owned by ASARCO, Inc., the smelter processed lead and copper for close to a century. The plant released sulfur dioxide gases and dust particles (containing arsenic and other metals) into the air. Much of the dust settled nearby contaminating the soil and the waters of Commencement Bay. ASARCO poured hot slag, a waste product of the smelting process (containing lead, arsenic, copper, and other metals), into Commencement Bay to cool and harden, creating an artificial shoreline. Some slag was cooled on land, resulting in a black, rock-like material that was sold to residents and businesses in the community for landscaping purposes, driveways, sandblast grit, fill, and other purposes. The cleanup involved smelter demolition, site and marine cleanup, and residential soil cleanup.
An expedited action to clean up 11 of the most seriously contaminated properties showed Region 10 a hint of the problem it faced. The property owners refused access because they did not think any response was necessary. Residents were distrustful of government and its warnings of health risks with no irrefutable causal link. And they were loyal to ASARCO, the town’s sole tax source, which had employed the residents for generations. When the company made the business decision to close and move overseas, the Ruston community blamed EPA for the job losses.
Cleanup of hundreds of residential yards still needed to be done. Region 10 management realized that if it did not change and find a way to break through the resistance, the community would block the work. According to Community Involvement Coordinator Michelle Pirzadeh, “regardless of how good a recommended solution is, it cannot be implemented without getting
people on board. To prove ourselves we needed to visibly address concerns, follow through on promises and build trust—with no surprises.”
The Ruston/North Tacoma Community Workgroup formed in 1990 when the planning for the residential cleanup began. The workgroup included community members and met on a monthly basis until the start of cleanup activities in 1993. Initially, the workgroup was somewhat negative and reactive, according to Mary Kay Voytilla, remedial project manager for the residential area. Workgroup members would not actively engage in discussions about how the cleanup could best meet the needs of the community. Instead they questioned the need for the cleanup. Charlene Hagan, Town Council member, described the relationship between EPA and the community as adversarial. “EPA was heavy-handed and the community operated like a lynch mob.”
The members of the site team recognized it would have to redouble its efforts to reach out and include the community in cleanup. They became more personally involved and began knocking on doors, interviewing residents on the process and the type of involvement desired. They held workshops and created opportunities for dialogue, such as one-on-one availability sessions. For the first time, residents began to feel that EPA really was listening to and interested in what they had to say. The site team took other steps to reach out and get involved in the community.
Clayton Johnson, a Ruston resident, was asked to be the community liaison and serve as EPA’s eyes and ears at key meetings. He answered residents’ questions and help to facilitate issues even though some community members still saw him as an EPA spy.
EPA formed the Ruston/North Tacoma Coordinating Forum to facilitate discussion and coordination among the various agencies and organizations involved in or affected by the residential cleanup. The forum assisted in the development and selection of a remedy that would be implementable in the community.
The site team stopped holding large meetings. Instead they used smaller public meetings in residents’ homes.
Fact sheets, mailers and a Residential Soils Bulletin on the progress of the cleanup were routinely distributed to residents, property owners, businesses, and schools. Under a cooperative agreement, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department developed two brochures related to the handling and disposal of contaminated soil.
The region provided informational brochures and bankers’ seminars for professionals involved in property transactions. They wrote up typical real estate questions and answers related to property values and set up a database for property transactions.
The site team showed its commitment to the community by volunteering at a local fund raising event to be dumped in a water tank.
Community buy-in is critical. Regardless of how good a technical solution might be, it will not be successful without community support.
Resistance is not the end of the road. Persist in building relationships and proactively reaching out to break through suspicion and opposition.
Create a community liaison. A resident who is willing to serve as a go-between and facilitator is an invaluable resource.
KODAK COMPANY FACILITY
Kodak Park, the largest industrial complex in the northeast United States, is located on more than 1,300 acres and stretches for nearly 4 miles through the city of Rochester and the town of Greece, New York. Much of its 22-mile perimeter borders residential neighborhoods. Approximately 13,000 households and 550 businesses are located close enough to the site to be considered plant neighbors.
Until 1988, the site operations relied on the corporation’s reputation and general community networks to address most community relations issues. Early that year, groundwater contamination at the site brought on a tidal wave of negative press and neighborhood concerns. Local neighborhood groups demanded that action be taken by local government, regulatory agencies, and of course, the company.
Initial Actions Taken
A special Neighborhood Relations Team was established at the site. Its mission was to establish a direct communication path between Kodak Park and its neighbors. Reporting to senior site management, the team had access to and support from company community relations, communications, and health and environmental resources.
A Neighborhood Information Center was opened in the neighborhood. The center was easily accessible to the public and, as the name implies, provided health, safety, and environmental information to neighbors. It also became a resource center for subsequent community programs addressing issues associated with recovery.
KP management and the Neighborhood Relations Team conducted a series of community meetings to share information with neighbors and get direct input regarding their concerns.
A survey was conducted to ascertain the issues and concerns of the neighbors. The survey results were evaluated in detail and incorporated into an action plan to address neighborhood concerns. Neighbors were invited to participate in open forums to discuss the plan and provide additional input into it.
A Neighborhood Leaders Council was formed with representatives of all local home associations, special interest groups, and Kodak Park. The council tracked progress on resolving environmental and related issues.
As in any issue dealing with contamination, questions about possible health effects arose. Kodak worked with local public-health agencies to collect exposure data that could be used to address these concerns and provided funds to enable the community to hire an independent, third-party scientist to validate health and environmental data and conclusions. Thus, the neighbors were not dependent on the company or public officials to interpret the study results.
A second major issue that surfaced was concern about property values. A Value Protection Plan was put into place that guaranteed the value of housing in the neighborhood for 10 years and allowed homeowners to stay in the neighborhood or move without financial penalty. This plan was accomplished through low interest loans for home financing, home improvement grants and loans, and reimbursement of relocation and real-estate transactions costs.
To maintain communications with neighbors, a newsletter was mailed out on a monthly basis to give a status report on progress.
12 Years Later
The Neighborhood Relations Team has developed into the Neighborhood Relations Office, a permanent group responsible for the management of liaison and issues associated with all neighborhoods bordering the company’s three Rochester plant sites.
Each plant site has developed and maintains strategic neighborhood relations plans, which outline four primary goals:
Build public confidence.
Generate external support to facilitate plant-site success.
Gain internal commitment to minimize adverse operational impact on the community.
Reinforce the plant site as a favorable community asset.
The Neighborhood Relations Office’s annual operating plans, which support the remediation strategies, are in-place and tracked for status and results.
The Kodak Park Neighborhood Leaders Council continues to meet twice monthly to maintain an ongoing dialogue and relationship with plant and community leaders.
In addition, a Community Advisory Council (CAC) has been established at each of the three plants. Their membership includes representatives from local government, schools, community associations, and other special interest groups near the plants. The primary purpose is the exchange of information and opinions regarding community and company interests.
Kodak Park continues to publish a neighborhood newsletter (The Update) to keep neighbors, local businesses, and employees informed of environmental, manufacturing, and local community issues associated with the plant. Five issues are mailed to 13,000 nearby households, 550 businesses, and 15,000 employees.
Each year, Kodak Park conducts two local neighborhood opinion surveys, one written (received by every neighbor and Kodak Park employee) and the other a statistically random telephone survey. The surveys ask for opinions and ratings on the site’s performance in communication, accessibility to the public, minimizing operational impact, and environmental responsibility. The results of the survey, combined with input from other community forums, are used to assist with Neighborhood Relations Office planning.
The Bottom Line
Involvement in this situation has shown Kodak that becoming a “neighbor of choice” is not just a lofty goal for business and industry. In today’s environment of high operating costs, extreme competitive pressure, and public participation, a company cannot operate effectively without the consent of those who live near a plant’s borders.
Earning public trust and sustaining a positive relationship with neighbors can only be realized through comprehensive planning and a commitment at all levels to progress. Like any relationship, it’s hard work but the rewards far outweigh the effort.
Kodak Park and its neighbors have benefitted from the mutual willingness to communicate and address operational issues before they become a crisis. In the process, Kodak Park management and employees have become much more aware of the issues and interests of neighboring communities. In many ways, Kodak Park and its neighbors regard each other as partners, supporting each other’s plans, and benefitting from each other’s successes.
THE PRINCE WILLIAM SOUND REGIONAL CITIZENS’ ADVISORY COUNCIL (RCAC)
It is generally accepted that environmental protection measures are more likely to succeed if the affected parties and in particular the affected community are involved in the decision-making process. Too often, community involvement is a token involvement limited to having the public informed and allowed to submit comments during specified periods. A truly pro-active approach to community involvement in environmental protection is exemplified by The Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (RCAC).
The RCAC is an independent nonprofit corporation formed as a result of the 1990 Oil Pollution Act. The act established two demonstration projects in Alaska, one in Prince William Sound and the other in Cook Inlet, both designed to promote partnership and cooperation among local citizens, industry, and government. Another important objective of the act was building trust and providing citizen oversight of environmental compliance by oil terminals and tankers. The RCAC’s 18 member organizations are communities in the region affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. These include groups involved in aquaculture, commercial fishing, environment, recreation, and tourism.
The mission of the RCAC is to promote environmentally safe operation of both the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company terminal in Valdez and the oil tankers that use it. The RCAC’s structure and responsibilities are derived from a contract with Alyeska, which operates the trans-Alaska pipeline as well as the Valdez terminal. Under this contract, the council receives funding from Alyeska to service the public. The second guiding document, enacted after the council was created, was the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which required citizen oversight councils for Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet.
Each year, the U.S. Coast Guard assesses whether the RCAC fosters the general goals and purposes of the Oil Pollution Act and whether the council is broadly representative of the community’s interests as envisioned in the act. As the council for Prince William Sound pursuant to the act, the RCAC advises and makes recommendations on policies, permits, and regulations relating to the oil terminal and tankers. The RCAC monitors, comments, and makes recommendations regarding Alyeska’s oil-spill-response and prevention plans and associated operations, prevention and response capabilities, and environmental protection capabilities. The council also reviews and monitors the actual and potential environmental impacts of terminal and tanker operations in Prince William Sound. The RCAC also recommends standards and modifications for terminal and tanker operations to minimize the risk of oil spills and other environmental impacts and to enhance prevention and re-
sponse capabilities. As part of its activities, the RCAC participates in the monitoring and assessment of environmental, social, and economic consequences of oil-related accidents. The council also comments on and participates in the selection of research and development projects.
The RCAC was initially funded at $2 million per year. This funding is renegotiated every 3 years and is at a level of $2.5 million per year. Although the council works closely with Alyeska, which funds the council, its independence is specified as a condition of its contract with Alyeska.
The RCAC has been in operation for about a decade. Its positive impact on environmental protection in Alaska is now well-recognized. It has aided in ensuring that health risk assessment and the monitoring of studies in Port Valdez are conducted at the highest level of scientific scrutiny. It has conducted a pro-active program of public participation and information dissemination to ensure that the sensitive region is utilized in an environmentally responsible manner by both industry and the region’s citizens.
EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1991. News Release regarding lodging of consent degree for St. Paul Waterway Area Remedial Action and Habitat Restoration Project. June 24, 1991
Parametrix. 1999. St. Paul Waterway Area Remedial Action and Habitat Restoration Project. 1998 Monitoring Report. Unpublished report to Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company, Tacoma, Washington, and Champion International, Stanford, Connecticut for the Washington State Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Parametrix, Seattle, Washington.
Sumeri, A. 1989. Confined Aquatic Disposal and Capping of Contaminated Bottom Sediments in Puget Sound. Proceedings of the WODCON XII, Dredging: Technology, Environmental, Mining, World Dredging Congress, Orlando, FL, 2–5 May, 1989.
Sumeri, A., T.J.Fredette, P.G.Kullberg, J.D.Geermano, D.A.Carey and P.Pechko. 1994. Sediment Chemistry Profiles of Capped Dredged Sediment Deposits Taken 3 to 11 Years After Capping. Dredging Research Technical Note. DRP-5–09. Vicksburg, MS: U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station. May.
Weiner, K.S. 1991. Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Superfund Completion Report for St. Paul Waterway Sediment Remedial Action. Submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company and Champion International Corporation. January 1991.