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Norseland settlement agreement within reach

"Eight years after the contaminated Norseland Mobile Home Estates site was deemed uninhabitable, an agreement is finally within reach on how to clean it all up.Kitsap County and the Port of Bremerton, owners of the former landfill located beneath part of what once was the Norseland community, have crafted a $1.2 million remediation plan with help from state Department of Ecology officials.The strategy calls for covering or “capping” the area occupied by the old garbage dump with a thick layer of clean soil. The hope is that earthen material will prevent the landfill from penetrating any new construction at the 20-acre site.The capping could begin as early as next spring.Ken Attebery, the port’s deputy executive director, said the cover is expected to be thick enough to accommodate any future utility corridors, such as wiring and water pipes.Future use of the property will be limited to industrial and commercial purposes. With DOE approval, however, the site could be designated for overnight or residential uses.The county and the port will each pay at least $300,000 toward the remediation, while the state has promised to pay $600,000.Over the last seven years, the port has paid more than $3.5 million and the county more than $2.4 million in cleanup efforts and for relocating former Norseland residents to the specially-built Orchard Bluff development in Port Orchard.A few more steps remain before the cleanup work can go out to bid next spring, said David South, DOE site manager for the project.Once the state attorney general completes a review of the cleanup plan, a public meeting will be scheduled. Officials said former Norseland residents should expect to be notified about meeting, as well as businesses and individuals close to the site.A public meeting on the cleanup plan could be held as early as January, DOE officials say. Once the meeting is concluded, and public suggestions incorporated into the decree, the document will go to the courts for approval.Meanwhile, attorneys representing the port are working to recoup funds spent on the actual remediation of the site as well as on the relocation of former Norseland residents. To that end, the port is exercising its right to negotiate with “potentially liable parties” listed by DOE. Liable parties in this case include the city of Bremerton, the Navy and Puget Services Company, the landfill’s former operator.In August, the port and the county settled with the city, which for years had transported its waste and dumped it at the fill. The city ultimately paid $500,000, which the port and county split.No funds have been recouped from Puget Service.Port and county representatives plan to attend a mediation with the former operators on Dec. 16 in Seattle.Port attorney Gordon Walgren said he hopes the former partners of Puget Service will pay their fair share in the cleanup process. But Tom Wolfendale, a Seattle attorney who represents the former partners, said, “We’ll continue to maintain that we have no responsibility for the relocation of former Norseland residents or responsibility for the cleanup action costs.”According to Wolfendale, the partners operated the fill from 1952 to 1961, then closed it and walked away. He said the partners were in no way a part of the decision to build a mobile home park at the site in later years.Wolfendale also noted that a study overseen by DOE several years ago didn’t conclusively identify any health risks.The Navy, on the other hand, has paid some money. According to spokesman Eric Hanger, the Navy paid for one-third of the cost of the remediation study a few years ago. That totalled $350,000, he said.Problem is, the port doesn’t think that’s enough.The port has “abided by the rules of Washington state, and we want the Navy to do the same,” Walgren noted.“The Navy’s policy is to settle it’s fair share at these sites,” Hanger noted."

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