Daily News Archive
From August 4, 2005

Town Struggles for Solution to Contaminated Soil
(Beyond Pesticides, August 4, 2005) In the town of Porter, WA, residents, who have been living with a pile of pesticide and PCB-saturated soil all summer long, are demanding answers. According to The Olympian, locals are frustrated that the pile has sat all summer without anyone informing them of what is going on. “We want a clear understanding of who governs action to eliminate the contaminated dirt," Porter buffalo rancher Jill Lagergren, told the newspaper. “The pile is still exposed to the elements and not covered. What's to keep it from blowing around?”

The soil, estimated at 100 to 500 cubic yards, is contaminated with pesticides, mainly dieldrin, and PCBs at levels about the residential cleanup trigger. It was brought the town of Porter by Briggs Nursery Inc., which excavated the soil from its nursery in Olympia, WA. The dirt was being removed from the Olympia nursery in order to make room for a new urban village development. The Seattle environmental firm Entrix was hired by Briggs to oversee the cleanup. Kevin Freeman, an Entrix project manager, claims that the dumping was a mistake and that the soil was supposed to go to a solid waste landfill.

Most members of the community did not take the mistake lightly. Many people are troubled both by the fact that it has been left uncovered and exposed, and the fact that it was dumped without informing community members. Residents are so concerned that they have organized a meeting for this week to address the pile of toxic dirt.

Dieldrin use was banned in the U.S. in 1987 and PCBs were banned in the 1970’s, however both are highly persistent and are leading environmental contaminants until this day. From the 1950s until 1970, dieldrin and aldrin (which breaks down into dieldrin) were widely used pesticides for crops like corn and cotton. PCB was mixed with the pesticides to prevent it from evaporating in the soil.

Both dieldrin and PCBs are classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. With the evidence of long-range transport of these substances to regions where they have never been used or produced and the consequent threats they pose to the environment of the whole globe, the international community has now, at several occasions called for urgent global actions to reduce and eliminate releases of these chemicals.

The POPs treaty, or Stockholm Convention, ratified on May 17, 2004 is an attempt to reduce the impact of these persistent chemicals throughout the world. The U.S. has yet to be among the 98 total ratifying countries. In 2001, President Bush promised to support the treaty, but his administration has sought to undermine it with legislation that would make it harder, rather than easier, for EPA to comply. (See March 11, 2004 Daily News)