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American Shipper

Port of Tacoma settles with EPA

Port of Tacoma settles with EPA

   The Port of Tacoma said it had agreed to pay $137,000 to settle a dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over paperwork related to the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter site.

   The dispute focused on a half-acre former waste-handling area cleaned up by Kaiser in 2002 before the port purchased the Tacoma Tideflats property.

   The port bought the shuttered aluminum smelter in early 2003 from Houston-based Kaiser. The sale included about 96 acres of land and related structures next to the Blair Waterway.

   During the past seven years the port said it has removed thousands of tons of waste from the site, demolished buildings and cleaned up significant portions of the property. During that time, the port recycled about 170 million pounds of materials from the property. About 80 of the 96 acres so far have been returned to port-related use to generate jobs and income.

   Federal hazardous waste laws require private property owners to file financial assurance letters each year to demonstrate they have the means to complete their cleanup and monitoring responsibilities. In Washington, the state Department of Ecology administers this federal mandate.

   The port said since 2003, it worked cooperatively with the Department of Ecology to meet financial assurance requirements for the site, but that in 2008, the EPA began to pursue the port over missed paperwork deadlines.

   The port said it recognizes the EPA had a valid claim about missed paperwork deadlines and agreed to settle the dispute for $137,000.

   It added it was “disappointed the EPA pursued any penalties in the face of a demonstrated, longstanding commitment to clean up the community,” but added, “costs related to a legal fight could equal or exceed the settlement amount.”