Ongoing investigations into the old J.H. Baxter site in Eugene’s Bethel neighborhood suggest a huge price tag for its cleanup.
Since Baxter closed last year, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, have been tag-teaming on gauging the level of pollutants and hazards at the shuttered wood-treatment facility.
Randy Nattis of the EPA’s Region 10 branch said designating the Baxter facility a Superfund site is still an ongoing process, with teams wrapping up their cost assessment this fall.
“The time-critical removal for just the tank farm, it’s likely to be in excess of $6 million,” Nattis said. “And that’s not the soils, which is 31 acres. And the residential and anything downstream, which could be in the tens of millions of dollars. So that’s where the Superfund designation really comes in to help, because it opens up a larger checkbook to help pay for these cleanups.”
Nattis made his remarks at a recent update for local residents.
Still to be determined: Whether J.H. Baxter will pay for clean-up, or if the cost will fall solely to taxpayers.
Meanwhile, with a potential federal government shutdown looming, many people near environmentally-hazardous sites are worried they’ll have no help from federal responders during an emergency.
During Monday night’s virtual event, Nattis said he’s aware that there could be trouble should an old chemical tank rupture, among other possible incidents.
“I want to highlight that EPA has a 24-hour, seven day a week Emergency Response Program, with duty officers and response officers on call,” he said. “Even if the government shuts down those officers are exempted. They still work. And we have contracts support and money regardless of, again the government shutting down or not, to support any emergency response actions.”
Nattis said the EPA and DEQ are continuing to investigate the extent of contamination at the Baxter site. He said environmental regulations weren’t really a thing until the 1980s, four decades into the wood treatment facility’s 80-year history of operations.
J.H. Baxter’s president, Georgia Baxter-Krause, has not responded to KLCC’s questions over the cleanup costs or past fines leveled against it by DEQ. A DEQ spokesman told KLCC that she remains in contact with his agency on compliance matters.