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Park’s meadow has a slab of asphalt as base
It was upsetting news this week to some members of the City Council thatthe acre-sized “meadow” at the recently completed restoration of Strawberry Plant Park is nothing more than 18 inches of topsoil placed atop a slab of asphalt from the old industrial days of the Eagle Harbor property.
Few knew until Jerry Elfendahl and some of his Friends of the Park friends started poking around in the new topsoil with an iron bar and discovered the old parking lot asphalt had never been removed as originally planned by the city.
Several council members said they remembered approving a change order in December regarding the area, “but we didn’t approve anything where we’d leave the asphalt there and just put 18 inches of topsoil on it and call it good,” said Bill Knobloch.
Community Develop-ment Administrator Chris Wierzbicki, who oversaw the project for the city, apologized to council if the plan wasn’t made clear, and then explained what had happened.
“We removed the concrete and asphalt from the shoreline restoration area, but there was still more in the uplands,” he said. “Originally we were going to move it all out and take the fill from the restored area and replace the concrete. But we ended up not having fill because after we tested it we discovered it was contaminated and had to be hauled away (to a waste management landfill in Arlington, Ore.).”
The city spent more than $100,000 to haul away 1,200 tons (about 700 cubic yards) of tainted soil from the restored area, Wierzbicki noted, and because of the cost and depth of the hole the city would have to fill it was decided against bringing in an equal amount of clean dirt for the meadow.
“So with no fill left, we had to either leave the asphalt there as a cap of what’s under it, or pay to dig it out for new clean fill to cap the asphalt that’s already there,” he said. “And that’s what we did. We didn’t have the money to dig out the soil below the asphalt and put in clean fill. The alternative was to just have the asphalt there... serving as a cap.”
Wierzbicki said after the meeting that some of the asphalt/concrete on the site was four feet deep and though the parking lot slab likely wasn’t that thick “it was deep enough” to require tons of fill to bring the ground level back to where it was required to be.
He also didn’t think that placing an 18-inch layer of clean soil on top of an asphalt cap covering possibly contaminated soil was a bad idea.
“What difference does it make?” he asked.
Wierzbicki said that six samples taken of the soil under the parking lot asphalt produced soil with some heavy metal arsenic in it, including one that was “slightly above our standards,” he said. The city reported the findings to the state Department of Ecology, which told Wierzbicki that the project is “under a partial investigation” of any action DOE might need to take.
“But we don’t think it’s a problem and it’s unlikely there will be any further action,” he said.
Council members Mayor Kirsten Hytopolous, Knobloch and Kim Brackett were concerned over the event and wanted to go back to the minutes of the December meeting when the change order was approved. No one on the council remembered voting on a specific plan to leave the asphalt untouched and covered with clean fill.
“I want to see the details of the minutes,” said Knobloch. “I can’t imagine approving it. Putting a cap in place and soil on top of it doesn’t make sense. I’m upset we have not been kept up to speed on the site. We thought we were giving the community a great place to go to, and instead we have this. We need to find a solution... we can’t walk away from this.”
Brackett was worried about the message the city would be sending to its residents.
“I only voted favorably for this project because I believed the removal of the impervious surface, the parking lot, was critical to the environmental restoration of the entire project,” she said. “We don’t allow people to have impervious surfaces on our shoreline, so here we have left acres of asphalt near Eagle Harbor and just covered it up with dirt.”
Hytopolous said the matter would be revisited after the minutes of the December meeting were looked at by the council.