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COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY - Here's the area where the Ken Foster Farms site is located. The area is contaminated as the result of leather hides being buried in the area from 1962 to 1971.The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will hold a meeting on Thursday on its proposed cleanup options for the contaminated Ken Foster Farm site in Sherwood.


The meeting is set at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room of Sherwood City Hall.

The 40-acre site in question -- located about one-half mile south of the Oregon Street/Murdock Road roundabout – contains waste from the former Frontier Leather Tannery.

According to DEQ officials, Ken Foster, a former tannery employee, took tanned hides and buried them on his property in pasture land at 23000 and 23500 Murdock Road from 1962 and 1971. Some of the hides were left in piles for a time and later spread out and tilled under. Those hides contained hexavalent chromium in amounts above the human health risk-based concentration the state agency has set for residential use.

In 2011, the DEQ entered into a settlement with former owners and operators of the tannery (which burned down in 2005), along with several former and current property owners in the area. That settlement was for $2.6 million, money the DEQ is using to clean up the site, which includes a 2.5-acre wetlands area.

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration lists the workplace exposure of hexavalent chromium as a carcinogen that can cause lung cancer in workers who breathe it.

Mark Pugh, a project manager for the DEQ, said the concentration of the compound at the site is low.

The acceptable risk level under Oregon cleanup rules for hexavalent chromium is 1 x 10-6 risk level, which is equivalent to one additional cancer in one million people, said Pugh. The cleanup goal for hexavalent chromium in residential soil is 0.29 parts per million. Exposure to this concentration in soil for 30 years is predicted to results in a risk level of one person in one million or less, which is considered acceptable risk under DEQ guidlines.

A 2007 DEQ risk assessment at the site concluded that residents at the site “are not subject to significant risk through direct contact with site soils.”

Pugh said it hard to clean up the entire site all at once so DEQ officials are proposing to do it in a phased approach. One proposal is to clean up the yards of those who already have homes on the site.

“We can afford to clean up the small areas where people are living,” he said. “We don’t have enough to … pay for everyone’s cleanup.”

One way to make sure the on-site soil isn’t a hazard is by “capping” it, which can be accomplished by installing some type of barrier such as placing clean soil at the site, installing asphalt pavement, building a house or other methods, said Pugh.

Pugh said of the $2.6 million set aside from the settlement for the cleanup, about $2 million is available. Money already spent was used on DEQ staff looking for a remedy for the site as well as paying for soil samples. Pugh said the costs for a soil sample to test for hexavalent chromium is $250 per sample.

“We collected around 500 soil samples,” he pointed out.

Pugh said plans are to begin cleanup of the site this spring or summer

After Thursday’s meeting, residents can submit formal comments until 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. They can be sent to Pugh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Documents pertaining to the site can be viewed at www.deq.state.or.us/lq/ECSI/ecsi.htm.

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