Fire district property may not need further cleanup

While preparing to decide if he wanted to pay about $6,000 — or nearly double that — to deal with soil declared contaminated on former Karcher Creek Sewer District property, General Manager Dick Fitzwater learned he might not have to spend any more money at all.

After meeting with Chief Wayne Senter of South Kitsap Fire and Rescue — the current owner of the property at 1974 Fircrest Drive — to review past clean-ups performed and mull his options for future work, Fitzwater said he learned from staff members at the state Department of Ecology (DOE) that the property might be given a pass.

“The official I talked to said the paperwork on our (1998 cleanup) was not reviewed,” Fitzwater said. “My interpretation was that they will now review it and tell us, ‘Yeah, you did (the cleanup) right,’ or, ‘No, you didn’t.’ ”

The property was added to the state DOE’s list of “suspected” contaminated sites in 1998 when a second pair of abandoned fuel tanks was discovered and dug up, though it was not inspected by the Kitsap County Health District and moved to the “confirmed” list until early this year.

Senter said as soon as he learned the fire district’s property was listed as contaminated, he hired a consultant to review the cleanup reports.

“It appears that the (DOE) is not accepting the work that was done by that contractor,” he said, explaining that although the district will not be paying for the cleanup, he then had two estimates prepared that he presented to Fitzwater and later discussed with him May 13.

“I asked how much it would cost to do testing to verify if the soil was still contaminated or not, because that is in question, and how much it would cost to just dig it up, haul it out, pave it over and be done with it,” he said. Senter said he was given an estimate of $6,000 for testing costs, while the price for removing the dirt in question was double that at $12,000.

Fitzwater said he was not anxious to go ahead with either more testing or clean up on the property, because he said the sewer district had already paid more than $25,000 for past work.

“I want to know why our cleanup efforts we paid for in the past were not good enough, rather than just throwing more money at a hole,” he said.

Fitzwater said the contractor the sewer district paid to clean up the property seven years ago — Rene LaMarche of Carrenden Enterprises — believes he performed the work correctly and completely.

“If he’s being accused of not following the right procedure, he should have a chance to defend himself,” he said.

Both Senter and Fitzwater said they had not been notified by the county or the state when the property was added to the contaminated list, and said they would have rather have been told the news by an official than by reading it in the newspaper.

“The Health District should have the courtesy to notify us,” said Fitzwater, who also expressed frustration with the length of time that passed between the clean-up of the site and it eventually being declared contaminated.

“If (either agency) had a problem with the clean-up, they should have said something at the time,” he said.

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