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DEQ Finds Gas, Metals At Sports Complex

The former Astoria landfill, on which Columbia Memorial Hospital, the city of Astoria and Astoria School District hope to erect a state-of-the-art sports complex, has gas, although bloating has significantly subsided since its closure in 1985.

Two representatives from the Department of Environmental Quality reported to the Astoria School Board during its regular meeting Wednesday about study of the landfill’s soil characteristics and what steps should be taken to ensure it’s safe for people at the sports complex.

Superintendent Craig Hoppes said the meeting was important because the district is essentially looking to put children on a capped landfill.

“The need for environmental cleanup and corrective action seems limited to the immediate landfill area,” said Tim Spencer, a project manager for the DEQ Northwest Region’s solid waste program, adding that methane gas, which in high enough concentrations can be explosive, is persistent in some of the subsurface soils in the landfill.

The study by the DEQ, which must sign off on closure of the landfill, found the highest concentrations of contaminates in groundwater, which flushes significantly slower than on the surface. The main contaminants are nondegradable metals, including iron, manganese, arsenic, lead, zinc, mercury and other heavy metals.

“There were no surprises in any of these results,” said Spencer of the DEQ’s studay and a similar one performed by environmental consulting firm Maul Foster Alongi, which was recently hired by the city of Astoria for $98,000 to help the landfill closure conform to DEQ requirements. “They were typical of an old landfill like this.”

He said the original closure of the landfill was inadequate to meet DEQ regulations, with inconsistent soil cap thickness, an ineffective storm water drainage system to keep it separated from buried waste and irregular grading that led to poor drainage.

Spencer recommended venting structures to safely disperse gas, features that are found in the Bridgeport Village shopping center, built on a former landfill. He added that utility conduits need to be sealed off to prevent gas from getting out, gas detectors should be placed indoors and utility lines should possibly be placed above ground.

“This whole issue of brownfield redevelopment … that’s a win-win situation, but we need to do our homework and make sure it’s done safely,” said Spencer, adding that the ballfields in Warrenton are on a former landfill site, along with such sites as Cully Park, the Asian American Plaza and the Dharma Rain Buddhist Sanctuary, all in northeast Portland.

“I think it helps to see that the Warrenton fields have been successful,” said Board Member Jeanette Sampson.

The hospital and city have been working on the site, grading the soil to improve its drainage, appearance and constructibility. Compaction and thickening of the landfill cover is also helping reduce future settling, associated maintenance and potential gas emissions, while storm water is being rerouted to avoid it contacting waste and becoming potentially toxic leachate.

Another proposed improvement, said Spencer, is creating a soil cap that would go over the entire site, reducing water permeability, gas emissions, improving public safety and meeting DEQ’s requirements for the site to be closed. A realistic monitoring period of site conditions might be 20 to 30 years.

The hospital will pay for the 11-acre sports complex, flipping it for John Warren Field, which will provide room for hospital expansion. The complex will host football, soccer, baseball and softball, as well as provide locker rooms, concession stands and a place for band performances. Astoria School District has the final sign-off on the complex before handing over the deed to John Warren Field.

The Astoria Landfill operated as a municipal solid waste disposal site from about 1965 until 1985. Its area totals about 14 acres, 11 of which are part of the slated redevelopment project.

A solid waste transfer station still operates in the northwest corner of the land.

In other news:

• The district received a “clean” audit from Tigard-based Pauly Rogers and Co, meaning there were no issues of noncompliance with state and federal standards and no issues in performance of the audit.

• Hoppes reported that in January, the Oregon Department of Education and State Board of Education changed the achievement compacts, agreements between the districts and the state on how much improvement will occur in various aspects of its schools. The new compact, which includes measurements of fourth- and fifth-year graduation and completion rates, third-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency and others, is due to the state Feb. 1.

• Hoppes reported that Astoria has one history class taking part in the Coastal Commitment, the new partnership between Clatsop Community College and local school districts to offer more college credits in the high school setting.

• The week of March 4 through 8 was proclaimed by Board Chairman Martin Dursse to be Classified Employee Appreciation Week, honoring those he called “the backbone of our education system.”

• Today the district will host a field trip to the Columbia River Maritime Museum for close to 20 homeschooled children, including, Hoppes said, one child who came all the way from Medford.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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