EPA to begin removing asbestos, PCBs at former Kaiser Aluminum smelter site

Kaiser Smelter Site 2
Credit: Washington state Department of Ecology

MEAD, Wash. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday began work to remove asbestos, PCBs and other harmful chemicals from the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter site in Mead.

According to a release from the EPA, the clean up is “time-critical” and will take several months to complete.

The work, which will be completed in phases, is being done to help reduce or eliminate risks to people, nearby homes and businesses.

The first phase will consist of work crews removing PCBs and asbestos-contaminated material from the 170-acre, developed portion of the site. This part has many large, deteriorating structures and waste piles.

The second phase will remove contaminated water and sediment from settling ponds on a 400-acre, undeveloped part of the site, just north of the former plant. According to the EPA, these ponds are full and actively releasing PCBs to Deadman Creek — a tributary of the Little Spokane River — at levels hundreds of times higher than state water quality standards.

The ponds pose a threat of a larger release of toxic PCBs to the watershed. The EPA said the work being done will help protect fish, people who eat fish and other important elements of the watershed ecosystem.

The EPA expects to complete work at the site in late December. More information can be found here.