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Wednesday, August 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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EPA suggests removing Spokane’s northside landfill from list of priority Superfund sites

UPDATED: Fri., July 17, 2020

Wastewater contamination at the Spokane Northside Landfill has cleared to a point where it should be removed as a national priority cleanup site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says.

The 345-acre site off Nine Mile Road in the Indian Trail neighborhood has been identified as a Superfund site since 1986, following discovery of contaminants that included an industrial degreaser and dry cleaning chemicals in the groundwater beneath the landfill.

Piles of buried trash taken to the site since 1931 had been buried in unlined pits, a practice that ended in 1991. Since then, the EPA has monitored groundwater from test wells located to the northwest of the site, and determined in May that the landfill no longer needed to be listed as a location posing a risk to human health or the environment.

“While groundwater meets federal drinking water standards and treatment is no longer needed, groundwater monitoring will continue,” an EPA statement released Tuesday said of the Northside Landfill site. “As an active landfill, the site will continue to be regulated by state and county agencies.”

Neighbors complained about the northside landfill in the late 1970s, particularly the ponds of sludge left to dry before burial. Attorney Carl Maxey brought a lawsuit against the city to close it down on behalf of a group that called itself Residents Against Garbage Encroachment, or RAGE, but it was dismissed.

In October 1983, however, test results gathered by the city showed evidence of tetrachloroethylene in private residential wells in the area. The chemical is believed to cause liver, kidney and nervous system damage and has been linked to certain forms of cancer in animals. The City Council quickly passed an emergency measure to hook homes in the area up to municipal water at a cost of $200,000, according to news reports at the time.

By 1991, the city had opened its garbage incinerator on the West Plains. The piles of trash at the Northside Landfill were capped, and in the years since a relatively smaller, 15-acre site on the property has been used to store trash that can’t be handled at the Waste to Energy facility, said Marlene Feist, director of strategic development for the city’s Utilities Division. That included disposal in February 2008 of 25 tons of recalled frozen beef from Spokane Public Schools, because the meat could not be safely incinerated.

“We do have some dumping out there, but it’s pretty small,” Feist said.

The EPA tracks 1,335 sites as national priorities for cleanup. The agency is proposing removal of three Washington locations from the list, including the Northside Landfill, a former lumber treatment facility in Chehalis and the soil at a formal hazardous materials disposal site near Maple Valley.

Environmental regulators will be accepting written comment on the proposal to delete the landfill from its list of priority Superfund sites through Aug. 13. Due to the coronavairus outbreak, the agency is not accepting comments by mail. Those interested may comment online at regulations.gov, or by email to morrison.kay@epa.gov with the subject line EPA-HQ-SFUND-EPA-HQ-SFUND-1986-0005.

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