SK fire district postpones HQ site cleanup

The South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Board of Commissioners last week agreed to wait until next year to remove contaminated soil near its headquarters at the request of the site’s former owners, Karcher Creek Sewer District.

Although officials from both districts opened bids earlier this month from companies willing to cart away the offending dirt, the SKFR board of commissioners voted Thursday night to reject both and try for lower bids in the winter.

The property — at 1974 Fircrest Drive — was added to the state Department of Ecology’s list of “suspected” contaminated sites in 1998 when a pair of abandoned fuel tanks was discovered and dug up.

Several years later, it was finally inspected by the Kitsap County Health District and moved to the “confirmed” list early last year since some of the soil was revealed to have unacceptable levels of contaminants.

Since then, officials from both the fire and sewer districts have discussed how to remove the site from the contaminated list. Although SKFR is the current owner of the property, the sewer district is still involved because it owned the property at the time of the alleged contamination and would be financially responsible for its cleanup.

The districts contemplated a “restricted covenance” for the property, promising not to disturb the soil, and also discussed testing the site again to confirm the extend of the contamination.

However, earlier this year SKFR Chief Wayne Senter announced the districts decided to hire a contractor to dig up the soil and remove it and “get us off the contaminated list once and for all.”

But when the districts opened two bids May 16, neither was deemed acceptable.

“The first bid did not have the required performance bond, and the second was $50,000 higher at $136,000,” said Deputy Chief Dan Olson. “Karcher Creek has requested we wait until January to go out for bid when hopefully the prices will be lower, and begin construction next summer.”

SKFR legal representative Rick Gross agreed it would be prudent to reject the current bids and call for more in the off-season, when there hopefully would be both more bids and lower prices.

The commissioners voted unanimously to do just that.

At the time the site was inspected by the health district, Grant Holdcroft, a county environmental specialist, said although the property only received a negative score in one category — human health impacts from ground water — it was a high enough amount for the site to be ranked at the second-to-worst level, a 2 out of five, with the worst being 1.

Holdcroft said the inspection came 7 years after the site was added to the “suspected” list because his department can only complete inspections on about four or five sites every six months, and that particular site had early on been considered a “low priority.”

“It was at the bottom of the list, because it was not considered really egregious,” he said.

Another reason the site was not a high priority, Holdcroft said, was that there had been removal and clean-up already performed on the area.

“We knew some action had been taken already, and if they had found something really bad, we would have been informed about it,” he said, explaining that what happened is that apparently the crews removing the tanks and the surrounding contaminated dirt “did not remove enough.

Senter said he knew of two cleanups on the property, once during construction of a maintenance building in 1998, and the latest in 2001 before work began on the new Central Communications tower.

On both occasions, Senter said the fire district “played by the numbers” and removed everything it was aware of from the ground, and that any additional cost will be born by the former owners.

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