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Kent gets $400,000 EPA grant to study contaminated properties

Josh Hall, city of Kent economic development specialist, stands at the old Texaco station at James Street and Central Avenue, a potential study site for ground contamination. - STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter
Josh Hall, city of Kent economic development specialist, stands at the old Texaco station at James Street and Central Avenue, a potential study site for ground contamination.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the city of Kent $400,000 in two grants to inventory, assess and prioritize contaminated sites in an effort to redevelop the properties.

City officials will hire a consultant to help determine location of the sites, how contaminated they are and what would be needed to clean up the properties. The grants are part of what's known as the EPA's Brownfields Program.

"It's not about a risk to the public," said Josh Hall, city economic development specialist. "It's more about identifying idle property and trying to get the property back on the tax base and get development happening."

Borden Chemical operated a plant from 1956 to 2001 on First Avenue where the Kent Station shopping mall now stands. The state Department of Ecology (DOE) listed Borden as one of the worst hazardous waste sites. Clean up efforts put the property back on the market. The shopping mall opened in 2005.

"That's a great example of brownfield redevelopment," Hall said about Kent Station. "You take a site that has chemicals, clean it up and redevelop it."

The EPA estimates there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. The agency started the grant program in 1995 to help communities find and assess contaminated properties and eventually clean up the sites.

"What we're talking about is a site where maybe there was a gas station there and we need to know if there were petroleum leaks," Hall said. "A lot of the study is if there are questions about a site, are they brownfields and do they need clean up?"

One potential study site is the old Texaco station at the northwest corner of Central Avenue and James Street, Hall said. The site has been vacant for about four years.

"That's an important corner of real estate," Hall said. "I'm pretty sure that will be a site we look at."

The city has no formal inventory of brownfield sites. A review of environmental databases maintained by the state DOE documents the presence in the city of 1,047 potentially impacted sites, including 582 hazardous waste generators, 294 underground storage tank sites, 136 leaking underground storage sites and three Superfund sites. The EPA identified Superfund sites as the worst contaminated properties in the nation.

Hall said the Superfund sites in Kent have already been cleaned up and are monitored, including the closed Kent Highlands Landfill at Military Road and South 240th Street and the closed Midway Landfill at 248000 Pacific Highway S.

"The grants provide no money for clean up," Hall said. "But it will give us an idea about what needs to be cleaned up for a developer."

City officials still need to determine the specific sites to be studied.

"Some sites are in the industrial valley," he said. "Others are old gas stations or laundromats. Other sites we might not even think are brownfield sites but we will find out if there is hazardous material or petroleum there."

City officials will work with contaminated property lists identified by the state DOE and King County to help compile a complete inventory.

Hall said consultants will identify up to about 10 sites that have petroleum or other hazardous materials for core samples to find out what's exactly there and what would be needed to clean up the site. He said the project will take about three years to complete.

The studies are expected to begin in a couple of months. Eventually, community outreach will be part of the project so that residents or businesses near a site can find out what was at the property and give input about possible redevelopment of the site. City officials will form a Brownfield Advisory Board of residents and business people once specific sites are identified.

 

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