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Toxic chemicals found in soil at Sunnyside airport

After receiving a tip late this past summer, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) found DDT, DDE, toxaphene and dieldrin in concentrated levels at the Sunnyside Municipal Airport.

The DOE notified the city of Sunnyside of its findings in a letter dated Oct. 26, 2010. The city was advised the property would be added to the statewide database of confirmed or suspected contaminated sites as a result of the findings.

The chemicals were found in soil as deep as 16 inches in four different locations at the site.

The DOE said the investigation began "...upon receiving a report of a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance that may pose a threat to human health or the environment."

Following the letter, the city of Sunnyside hired Sound Earth Strategies to conduct a review of the property, according to City Manager Mark Gervasi.

He said the firm submitted a proposal for cleaning up the site, but the figures were "a little on the high side."

As a result the Sunnyside City Council this past Monday was provided a draft request for requests for qualifications (RFQ). The city advertised for RFQs yesterday (Tuesday) and has set in place a deadline for letters of intent for Wednesday, Dec. 22.

Gervasi said the qualifications must be received by the city of Sunnyside no later than Jan. 13, 2011.

"It isn't yet known what the cost of the clean-up will be nor does the city know the extent of the clean-up," he said, explaining the engineering firm selected from the RFQs will submit an estimate of the clean-up costs.

"The purpose of hiring an engineering firm is to determine the costs and eventually identify potential funding sources to offset those costs," said Gervasi, stating there may be financial assistance available through the DOE.

The area in question, he said, was for many years used for crop dusting services. It is believed the services operated from the location on the airport property as far back as the 1940s. The city of Sunnyside purchased the property in 1975, but DDT, DDE, toxaphene and dieldrin were not questionable chemicals at the time.

The chemicals are known to travel through soil vertically, and the concern is the chemicals may seep into groundwater.

"This RFQ will help the city of Sunnyside determine remediation," said Gervasi, stating the city anticipates clean-up efforts beginning in the spring of 2011.

"The goal is to complete the clean-up efforts by late summer, depending on the extent of the clean-up," he said, stating the city of Sunnyside intends to move quickly on the effort for a quick resolution.

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