NEC clean-up begins
The Northcoast Environmental Center [broke] ground this Thursday on cleanup of the site of its former headquarters on Ninth Street in Arcata, which has been vacant since the 2001 fire that razed the former NEC and adjacent buildings.
For the past 11 years, the site has remained undeveloped while undergoing Phase I and Phase II assessments, which consisted of drilling and sampling both the soil and water to determine the range and levels of contamination. The NEC’s subcontractor will ‘dig and haul’ to remove the most contaminated soil, which will then be hauled to a certified toxic waste facility and disposed of appropriately. The remaining soil at the site will then be injected with a remediation agent, which is intended to modify the chemistry of the contamination so that it becomes less toxic more quickly.
Following the cleanup, the site will be monitored for approximately 12 to 18 months. To determine that the process is working as intended, permanent sampling wells have been installed on the property. Ongoing monitoring data and results will be sent directly to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Bob Morris, NEC’s Trinity County representative, has shepherded the Brownfields cleanup. “After 2 years of planning and fundraising, it is heartening to finally be doing the work on the ground that will lead to the final phase of monitoring,” he said.
The NEC had occupied the Ninth Street site since 1982, when it purchased the building that once functioned as a dry cleaning business. Typical to this industry, the owners used a chemical call Perchloroethylene (PCE or PERC) as part of the dry cleaning process. Over the tenure of the business, this chemical leaked into the soil below, leaving the subsequent landowner to do the clean-up. The PERC levels in the soil are relatively low, and the NEC had been given approval to “cap-and-build,” which would have entombed the soil under a cement slab, allowing the property to be sold ‘as-is’ for the next owner to legally build upon. Following that course of action would have left the soil contaminated, potentially impacting groundwater, and possibly Humboldt Bay.
The NEC Board of Directors felt that the only ethical course of action was to procure this grant and go through the steps to ensure the lot is clean before selling it. “Not only is this the right move environmentally, but it is also a wise move fiscally, since the result will be a saleable lot near the Arcata Plaza,” Morris added.
Larry Glass, president of NEC’s Board of Directors, said, “I am proud that NEC is maintaining our commitment to clean up the contamination that we unknowingly inherited, despite the economic times that have required us to trim some staff and programming. That we continue to receive grants and contributions from the public is a sign that our work remains an important contribution to the well-being of the community.”
The Brownfields Grant awarded the NEC $200,000 for clean-up, requiring $40,000 in matching funds. The NEC has thus far received $29,600 or 74% of goal. Earmarked contributions can be sent to the NEC at P.O. Box 4259, Arcata, CA 95518.