Funds OK'd for cleanup of Walla Walla County site

Hexavalent chromium is among the chemicals targeted for cleanup at the former Schwerin Concaves.

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WALLA WALLA -- Funds to clean up a contaminated site in Walla Walla County are in the pipeline.

This money is among $6 million approved by the Legislature this year to clean up sites ranging from old gas stations to former mining areas contaminated by cyanide, mercury and other metals.

The funds will be used by the state Department of Ecology exclusively in Eastern Washington to clean up properties where the responsible party, such as the land user, facility operator or property owner, could not be found or is unable to pay costs associated with the cleanup.

The Walla Walla County site slated for cleanup is the former Schwerin Concaves northeast of Walla Walla, where an electroplating business operated from the late 1970s to 2000. Hexavalent chromium used by the operators is present in the soil and groundwater. There are also elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, zinc, nitrate and sulfate in groundwater.

The cleanup is scheduled to start in 2012, said Jani Gilbert, Ecology spokeswoman. Before any work is done, an action plan will be put out for public review followed by a 30-day comment period. The estimated cost of the cleanup is between $400,000 to $800,000.

Gilbert said tons of contaminated soil have been removed from the site for treatment and the next step will be injecting a "reactive media" that will cause the hexavalent chromium in the soil to change to a less-toxic and less-mobile form.

Along with Walla Walla, cleanups will also be done at sites in Buena, Sunnyside, Cle Elum, Richland, Ione, Okanogan County and along the Spokane River Valley.

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