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Neighbor sues city over old decant site

Dan Brewer says a creek is being polluted, even as the parcel is cleaned up.

Apparently dissatisfied with cleanup of the former decant facility at the Head of the Bay, a neighbor has sued the city seeking an injunction against future activities there, and seeking damages.

The complaint was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, under the federal Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation Recovery Act.

Eagle Harbor Drive resident Dan Brewer charges that in storing road sweepings, ditch spoils, gunk from storm drains and other material on the site for years, the city is contaminating nearby Cooper Creek and a wetland, and threatening wells that serve Winslow residents.

The materials contain an array of contaminants, including lead, arsenic and petroleum products, according to the complaint.

“The frustrating thing for my client is that it’s been going on for years,” said attorney Ryan Vancil of the Seattle firm of Bricklin Newman Dold, who represents Brewer. “He’s not a litigant, someone who wants to shoot from the hip and sue somebody.

“But subsequent administrations at the city have been ignoring him for 10 years.”

The city has been removing materials from the Head of the Bay site since running afoul of health regulators last year.

After years of study, public works officials in February received approval to develop a new “decant” facility – where road spoils will be collected and processed for disposal elsewhere – at a Vincent Road location. The city recently received a low-interest loan to fund the design of the new facility, and an engineering firm is now being sought.

In the meantime, approximately 3,500 tons of material have been removed from the Head of the Bay site this year, with 4,100 tons hauled out last year, said Randy Witt, city public works director. Removal is contingent on funding, with some $200,000 budgeted for the cleanup in 2004.

“We’re within what the Department of Health has asked us to do,” Witt said. “They gave us to the end of next year to do this. Speeding up is something the city can do on its own, but it’s not a regulatory requirement.”

He added, “We’ve been working hard to do what the council asked us to do with the site. Unfortunately, it’s not on the schedule Mr. Brewer would like.”

The cleanup has been spurred by Brewer and several other neighbors, who last year complained to the City Council that public works was running a “hazardous waste facility.”

In his complaint, Brewer alleges that material is spilling out of the very trucks hauling it away, fouling his property. The city uses an access road that crosses Brewer’s four-acre spread.

The complaint seeks unspecified damages, for nuisance and trespass that have “unreasonably interfered with the plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of his property.”

“Running an industrial site in a residential neighborhood is going to reduce the values of the property around it, and reduce the quality of life,” Vancil said.

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