Department of Ecology News Release - June 30, 2011

Cleanup work expected to start next week at old Anacortes mill site

OLYMPIA – Work starts after the Fourth of July holiday on a partial cleanup of a long-abandoned former mill site on the shore of Fidalgo Bay in Anacortes.

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is overseeing the cleanup of part of the former Custom Plywood site off 35th Street and V Avenue. A sawmill, a wood box factory and a plywood mill previously operated on the site. Fire destroyed the closed plywood mill in 1992.

Cleaning up this site will help to reduce pollution and restore Puget Sound habitat and shorelines. It also will clear away for economic development at a major piece of industrial land on the Anacortes waterfront.

Current site owner GBH Investments LLC plans to use the property for building and repairing boats.

Work will focus on cleaning up about 6 upland acres this year. It will include removing pilings and other structures to allow excavation of about 33,600 tons of contaminated soil; off-site disposal of the soil, structures and pilings; and backfilling the site with about 39,000 tons of clean soil. In-water work will start in the summer of 2012.

In 2008, Ecology and GBH entered into a legal agreement called an agreed order to address contamination at the site. The agreement outlines the site’s investigation and a draft cleanup plan.

Site soil contains elevated concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, zinc, oil-range petroleum hydrocarbons, dioxins, and furans. Groundwater beneath the site does not meet drinking water standards. The water also contains elevated concentrations of arsenic, copper and nickel. Dioxins and wood debris contaminate Marine sediments are found to be contaminated with dioxins and wood debris.

GBH already did some work at the site to prepare it for the coming major cleanup action. That work included removing pilings and demolishing concrete structures. Ecology estimates the effort saved at least $250,000 in cleanup costs.

Ecology is paying for the upland cleanup work – field construction, construction management and compliance sampling activities – with about $3.8 million in funds generated by the state’s voter-approved tax on hazardous substances. Ecology plans to recover cleanup costs.

Cleanup contractor Strider Construction of Bellingham and its subcontractors expect to employ a total of about 40 workers on the project. Typically, cleanup workers spend money on food, fuel, lodging, and other goods and services in the community where they’re employed, which provides a boost to the local economy.

In addition, economic estimates show that every cleanup dollar that is spent creates:

  • $7 in ongoing payroll value.
  • $32 in business revenue.
  • $6 in new local and state tax revenues.

Ecology identified Fidalgo and Padilla bays in Skagit County as high-priority, “early-action” cleanup areas under the Puget Sound Initiative (PSI). That’s an effort by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental communities, scientists, and the public to restore and protect the health of the Sound.

An Ecology team is working with the Port of Anacortes, the city of Anacortes, other site owners, area tribes, and other stakeholders to help shape cleanups at several sites.


Media Contact: Seth Preston, Ecology communications manager, 360-407-6848; 360-584-5744 cell;

Custom Plywood webpage (

Read more about Anacortes-area Puget Sound Initiative cleanup sites (

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