About 50 residents and government officials seven months ago asked the state’s Department of Ecology to pressure Georgia-Pacific’s paper mill in downtown Camas for more stringent environmental cleanliness standards. Therefore, it will be possible to measure the company’s environmental cleaning efforts.
“The mill has been an active part of our community for over a century, and the site continues to be key for Camas and the region”, said Carrie Schulstad, executive director of the Downtown Camas Association.
The association is accepting applications through Dec. 6 from community members interested in serving on a community advisory group that will guide public participation during the mill’s cleanup process. “The advisory group will be a big part of helping us reach all corners of the community and provide strong, informed feedback to Ecology as they investigate and plan for cleanup”, Schulstad said.
Advisory group members are expected to meet every other month starting in December through the summer of 2023, according to the association. Camas residents and officials began weighing in on the cleanup process in the spring, after Ecology issued a draft of an agreed order for future hazardous material cleanup at the Camas paper mill.
“The fate of the mill is probably the biggest thing to impact downtown Camas since the city was founded”, said Camas developer Rick Marshall. “Any cleanup of the mill should really consider the most likely reuse of that property, and it is likely to be mixed-use. Our community will fight vigorously for access to the waterfront and most successful repurposes of old waterfront industrial sites typically include public access to the water.”
Shingo Yamazaki, the Ecology site manager, has explained that the state wants to understand “what, where and how much” contamination is at the GP mill. He said the cleanup process would begin with a remedial investigation to find contamination sites at the mill site.
The ecology team already knows the site of the GP mill, which has been used as a pulp and paper mill since the late 1880s, and has petroleum hydrocarbon contamination from diesel, gasoline and oil.
Now they hope to determine what the other pollutants are, including dioxins and furans; heavy metals such as lead and chromium; polychlorinated biphenyls; carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes may be lurking in the soil and groundwater near the expanding plant site in central Camas.
Ecology is expected to provide a draft Remedial Investigation Work Plan for public review and comment in January. The community advisory group will submit comments to Ecology in the spring, and the state will likely finalize its remedial work plan in the summer, with a cleanup action plan expected in 2023 and site cleanup scheduled to begin in 2024.