Port to get $1.75 million for harbor cleanup in settlement

By Oliver Lazenby

The Port of Bellingham took a step toward starting a $6 million cleanup project at Blaine Harbor after securing $1.75 million through a settlement with a former tenant.

On November 20, Port of Bellingham commissioners approved the settlement with the estate of Carl Westman and its insurance company over contamination at Westman’s boatyard business, Westman Industrial Co., operated at Blaine Harbor from 1976 to 1989 on a property now known as the Westman Marine Site.

Port commissioners touted the settlement as a success at the November 20 commission meeting. The amount, $1.75 million, is the limit of the estate’s insurance, and the most the port was likely to get, officials said.

“The port is going to do these cleanups, we’ve got to do these cleanups, but this money helps make it possible so we’re still able to do other things that are economically development focused, that are housing focused,” said port commissioner Michael Shepard.

The port and Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) began investigating the site in 2013 and identified pollutants at concentrations that require cleanup under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act. Contaminants include arsenic, copper, zinc, tributyltin and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The substances are likely from sandblasting, hull painting and other boatyard operations, according to the port.

The port and DOE estimated that cleaning up the site would cost $6.14 million total. The port has owned the site since the 1940s and various tenants have contributed to the pollution.

The cleanup site is 1.5 acres. Westman Industrial Co. operated near the end of McMillan Avenue, at a property that’s been occupied by Walsh Marine since 2011.

This is the port’s third recent settlement with former tenants at that site. Previous settlements totaled about $910,000. With those settlements and matching grants the port anticipates getting from the DOE, the port will have about $5 million for cleanup.

Ben Howard, the port’s environmental project manager, said the cleanup will start in about three years. Before work can start, the port and DOE have to finalize a cleanup plan, site design and permitting.

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