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Boise officials plan DEQ talks


With plans to halt St. Helens operations, company says it plans discussions regarding mill site, landfill

Boise Inc. officials say they intend to meet with state environmental officials soon regarding implications from the shutdown of the H2 paper machine at the company’s St. Helens mill.

Karen Blanchard, Boise Inc.’s spokeswoman, said it’s unclear what steps the company would have to take, if any, regarding the mill site and its use of a 16-acre landfill located off Sykes Road, just north of the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

“We haven’t yet had our full discussions with Oregon [Department of Environmental Quality] regarding operations at the landfill,” Blanchard said. “We’ll be meeting with DEQ on a variety of issues. We’re not closing the [mill] site. We’re just shutting down that machine.”

Boise Inc. announced mid-October plans to halt its operations at the St. Helens mill, resulting in the expected layoff of 106 employees by Dec. 31.

Cascade Tissue Group, a privately owned paper company based in Canada that markets itself as having a strong environmental record, continues operation of one machine at the mill on a lease arrangement.

Boise Inc. officials have said they intend to pursue other uses for the idled portions of the mill.

As reported in a March 2011 article in The Spotlight, the landfill receives clarifier solids and other wastes from the production of paper pulp originating at the St. Helens mill. DEQ officials said a graph showing pollutant concentrations versus time gleaned from water samples in 2010 showed little cause for contamination concerns.

Clarifier solids and other wastes deposited at the landfill contain a variety of hazardous materials, including cadmium, arsenic, lead, cyanide and DDT among others, according to information found on DEQ’s Environmental Clean-up Site Information file maintained on the agency’s website.

“It’s some pretty bad stuff,” said one St. Helens resident, who asked to remain anonymous in this article for a variety of concerns. He said he would like to see a clear plan of action for the landfill.

“I got to thinking about who is going to take care of this thing if Boise goes belly up,” he said.

“There is groundwater contamination, but for most landfills you have attenuation and concentrations decrease as you move away,” said Bill Mas on, DEQ’s senior groundwater hydrologist, in The Spotlight’s article. He said the data didn’t raise any alarms.

Similarly, Andy Tinkess, who manages the McNulty Water PUD, which has two water wells slightly less than a mile south of the landfill, in 2011 told The Spotlight the wells are monitored and there have not been any significant spikes in the data.

“There’s been no significant changes,” Tinkess said Tuesday, adding that DEQ monitoring performed by Buffalo Geological Consulting, which has an office in Astoria, occurs every six months.

In addition to McNulty Water PUD’s wells, there are private wells and residences down slope of the landfill, as well as a nearby, unnamed tributary to McNulty Creek. A DEQ official told The Spotlight there is some cause for concern due to faulting in the landfill’s underlying bedrock.

Boise Inc. licenses the landfill through DEQ, which requires regular monitoring and the resolution of specific actions before it could be closed.

Blanchard said concerns such as the St. Helens’ man expressed are valid. She also said Boise Inc. continues to use the landfill on a limited basis.