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State, county work to prevent Green River flood pollution from Kent auto-wrecking yard

The Washington State Department of Ecology and King County are taking proactive steps to help prevent toxic material from escaping the site of an old Kent auto-wrecking yard in the event of Green River flooding.

With the former site of Japanese Auto Wrecking at South 262nd Street just 50 yards from the river, the agencies are spending roughly $83,000 to prevent the spread of pollutants from heavily contaminated materials to surrounding properties that include agricultural lands, according to a Jan. 13 King County Department of Natural Resources media release.

The money funded installation of a barrier of “super sacks,” provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, between the wrecking yard and adjacent agricultural lands, along with a pollutant absorbing “boom” adjacent the barrier. Construction of the barrier was completed in November.

The agencies say the protection is needed if river flows reach an "extraordinary" flood stage, such as 13,600 cubic feet per second at the Auburn Green River gauge. That scenario that has a 1 in 33 chance of occurring over the next several years, up until a damaged abutment next to the Howard Hanson Dam is repaired, according to the corps.

King County and the corps will monitor the protection measures and determine whether additional measures are warranted.

King County is contributing about $23,200 in emergency appropriations and the state has awarded a $60,000 grant from the Department of Ecology’s Flood Control Assistance Account Program.

The area includes the Japanese Auto Wrecking site. The property has had multiple investigations, sampling efforts, and enforcement actions by local, state, and federal officials due to improper disposal of hazardous waste, which that has contaminated the site’s soils and groundwater. The site has been under an enforced cleanup order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is currently under the state's Voluntary Cleanup Program.

According to the agencies, without this installation, floodwater could carry pollution to more than 1,500 acres of nearby land, including farms that contribute to local markets.

For more information about regional efforts to prepare for Green River flooding, go to www.kingcounty.gov/floodplans.

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