"Cleanup, and then what?City officials and citizens take a fresh look at Wyckoff."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:40 PM
"On a picture-perfect Northwest morning, with panoramic views of sea, mountain, cityscape and sky, one cannot avoid being dazzled by the possibilities of the Wyckoff site on the south shore of Eagle Harbor.Plainly, something grand can happen on the 55-acre parcel once the Environmental Protection Agency finishes its $40 million cleanup. Tuesday morning, a group of citizens charged with making recommendations about that future got its first look at the progress of the cleanup effort.We really don't know what can be done, or how it fits with the cleanup schedule, said Judith Hartstone, a Bill Point resident who was involved in earlier planning for the site, and is now part of a second effort.In 1996, a citizen advisory group proposed multi-family residential use for the hilly upland area south of Eagle Harbor Drive. The point - the thumb jutting into Eagle Harbor - was to be a park. The area west of the point was slated for waterfront industrial use - a boat repair yard and associated services.But the EPA put the kibosh on that plan. Over the city's vehement objections, the agency decided to create a sloping beach on that portion of the property envisioned for industrial use to improve fish habitat and to prevent disruption of the capped but contaminated underwater soil.With the beach and the required buffer, there's a real question about whether there is enough room for commercial and industrial use, council member Christine Nasser said while touring the site Tuesday morning.To further benefit habitat, EPA is proposing a 200-foot vegetative buffer along the shoreline. While the shade will benefit salmon and the cover will benefit bird and animal life, the buffer will make the shoreline much less accessible to people.It might be possible to have a buffer on only part of the property, and shoreline access on other parts, Hartstone said. And the vegetation might not be so high that if interferes with the views.From the turn of the century to 1988, the site was home to a wood-treatment plant, where logs were impregnated with creosote. That petroleum-based biocide protected the wood from insect infestation and rot.But creosoting operations were sloppy. Material was spilled into the soil, and some of it is cancer-causing. So like many other creosoting facilities around the country, the Wyckoff site is being cleaned up under the federal Superfund program.A new planThe citizen committee that visited the site Thursday is charged with re-examining the plan for the area, in light of the changes EPA has mandated since 1996. Appointed in January, the group should have recommendations for the planning commission within the next 60 days.Park district officials have called for the entire property, or at least that between Eagle Harbor Drive and the water, to be preserved as a park.Although decisions may be made in the future, the property won't be free for use anytime soon.On-site project manager Hanh Gold said work will begin soon on building a pilot facility to test the steam-cleaning technology that EPA believes will force the contaminants from the soil.Construction will take about a year, she said. After that, EPA will begin the treatment process on a portion of the property, injecting steam into the soil to float the gooey creosote to the surface, where it will be scooped up and hauled away.A pilot effort on a one-acre piece of ground will also take about a year, Hanh said. Then the effort will have to be evaluated.By the end of 2003, we will know whether to go forward with the process on the rest of the property, she said.If the full-scale effort does take place, Hanh estimated that design and construction of the plant will take a year, and the actual cleanup itself will take ten years. That pushes completion into 2015 - if all goes well.If the steam-cleaning does not work, the alternative will be capping the contaminated soil in place, which will sharply curtail the possible uses of the property.Could it be used as a park? I think so, Hanh said. There's Gasworks Park in Seattle, and it's contaminated. "