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Bellingham plant to pay $8.6 million for cleanup

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – A Bellingham wood treatment plant will pay at least $8.6 million to finish cleaning up hazardous chemicals at its site under a settlement with the federal government that was announced Wednesday.

The EPA has already spent more than $14 million to investigate and clean up contaminated areas at the Oeser Co., which was listed as a federal Superfund site in 1997.

The remaining cleanup at the 26-acre site is expected to cost about $3.8 million, but could cost as much as $6 million, federal officials said.

Under the settlement, Oeser officials agreed to conduct the final action selected by EPA. The company agreed to deposit money into two trust accounts that will be used to pay for the cleanup and reimburse the EPA, if necessary.

The company also agreed to contribute $500,000 to a trust account held by the City of Bellingham to clean up nearby Little Squalicum Creek.

The Oeser site has been used for wood-treating operations – including treatment of utility and transmission poles – since the late 1940s. The company used creosote as a wood preservative until the mid-1980s.

Over 60 years of operations, the soil and groundwater at the site became contaminated with hazardous substances including creosote, pentachlorophenol, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxin, the EPA said.

“This settlement demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring that hazardous waste sites are cleaned up, and that public funds used for cleanups are paid back into the Superfund – enabling the EPA to continue its cleanup work at other sites,” said Kelly A. Johnson, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

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