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Health District faults city for decant operation

Bainbridge needs a decant facility, and it needs one on the island.

But the most recent proposed site at the city’s Head of the Bay property may well be “out.”

In fact, some of the city’s current operations there should be terminated, and the site cleaned up sooner rather than later, according to county health officials.

“I’m not going to tell Public Works they have to stop using that site today, but using it for two years while deciding what to do long term is not an option,” said John Kiess, county environmental health specialist. “We need a decision quickly.”

Kiess inspected the facility in late May at the direction of the State Department of Ecology. The inspection followed a complaint by Eagle Harbor Drive resident Dan Brewer, whose four-acre property adjoins the city’s satellite public works yard up a dirt road where Eagle Harbor Drive turns west and becomes Wyatt Way.

Kiess’s findings – that the city’s present storage of road wastes on the property is improper – has changed the direction of the committee charged with finding a location for a so-called “decant” facility.

Charged with examining alternatives that did not involve developing a new site on the island, the committee recommended upgrading the Head of the Bay site.

At a Monday meeting of the committee, Kiess said upgrading the site to protect the city’s wellheads at the foot of the hill was possible, but could involve significant costs and a lengthy permitting procedure.

“I can’t say, without a complete application, that it can’t be done,” Kiess said. “But because of the wellhead concerns, it’s problematic, no question about it.

“Considering the costs of what it would take to put a site there, it might not be the preferred option.”

At issue is a site for disposal of street waste, which consists of four streams. Those are “vactor” wastes – material sucked out of storm drains – street-sweeping wastes, spoils from roadside drainage ditches, and material that comes from cleaning and re-grading street shoulders.

All of them can become contaminated with automobile-related pollutants – petroleum residues and trace amounts of heavy metals – and must be disposed of in lined landfills.

Because the vactor trucks remove mostly water from the catch basins, that material must be “decanted” – placed in a tray where the liquid and solid components are separated. The water goes into a sewer line for treatment, and the solids go to a landfill.

Ironically, the decanting operation could continue at the Head of the Bay, Kiess said.

“While it may not be the ideal situation, the method being used for that material is perfectly appropriate,” he said.

Nor are sweepings a problem. They are placed on an impervious pad and are now being covered with a tarp while being stored for offsite disposal.

The troublesome waste streams, Kiess said, are the high-volume ditch and shoulder residues – combinations of plant matter and dirt, which are currently stockpiled at the Head of the Bay with no clear disposal plans.

“That is not appropriate,” he said.

But he could not say whether that activity presents a health risk.

“I can tell you that the material is contaminated beyond background levels,” he said. “But it takes some pretty good science to determine whether it poses a health risk, or how close you need to be for it to become a risk.”

Kiess also gave further ammunition to the selection committee’s finding that off-island disposal isn’t really an option.

The only permitted landfill in Kitsap County has reached capacity and is about to close, he said, meaning that the only options will be short-term transfer facilities to hold material prior to its rail shipment to Oregon, site of the nearest disposal facility.

At the suggestion of member David Harrison, the committee now will prepare a new report.

The committee is expected to say that the Head of the Bay site and off-island disposal are unattractive long-term options, that the city should find an interim method for handling road wastes, possibly including a mobile truck.

The committee likely will recommend that the city study other on-island options, including the Vincent Road recycling facility and city-owned property at Island Center on the east side of Miller Road.

Councilman Norm Wooldridge endorsed those recommendations.

“I feel and I believe the rest of the council feel pretty strongly that even though the facility at the Head of the Bay could be made perfectly safe, in the long run it’s probably not the right thing to do,’ he said.

“Personally, I think we should authorize the committee to look elsewhere on the island, and when we find a site that makes sense and is reasonably distant from the neighbors, that’s probably what we will do.”

Brewer, whose complaint triggered the county’s investigation, said he was sad that it had taken so long to determine that the city was misusing the Head of the Bay property, but was pleased with the apparent outcome.

“It’s nice to get a sense that other people are beginning to agree that the facility shouldn’t be there,” he said.

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