The Grays Harbor PUD started the long process of cleaning up its portion of the Harbor Paper site in Hoquiam this week. Crews began draining the former mill’s wastewater treatment facility — which will take about three weeks.
The utility and the City of Hoquiam entered into an agreement to dispose of the water, which will be piped into a manhole and sent to the city’s wastewater treatment facility, said City Administrator Brian Shay. The PUD will pay the city $17,000 to dispose of the water.
“For the most part, it’s all rain water so there’s no problem with it going into our system,” Shay said. “And the $17,000 will definitely be a good thing.”
In all, about 28 million gallons of water will be pumped from the Harbor Paper holding basins, aeration basin and clarifiers.
“We have a responsibility to clean our share of the site, but our first responsibility is to our ratepayers, to ensure that the project is completed at the lowest possible cost. With the help of the city, we are meeting both obligations,” said PUD General Manager Dave Ward.
In addition to paying $17,000 the PUD will also assist the City of Hoquiam with tree trimming this summer. Shay said the city chops down anywhere between five to 15 dangerous trees in a given year. Instead of hiring their own contractors to do the work, the city will hire the PUD at a cheaper rate.
Emptying the wastewater treatment plant is only the first of several projects the PUD must complete to clean up its portion of the mill site. They’ll also need to dismantle the wastewater treatment facility and remove large ash and sludge piles.
The utility’s responsibility to the site dates back to an agreement with property owner Rayonier and Harbor Paper’s predecessor, Grays Harbor Paper.
In 2006, the Legislature provided the PUD with $7.5 million in grants and loans for construction of a biomass turbine system, which was owned by the utility and leased to Grays Harbor Paper.
The turbine sat on land owned by Rayonier, which was leased to the PUD. As a result, the PUD became responsible for a portion of the mill clean up. The PUD later sold the turbine to Harbor Paper for $540,000 — about half the amount owed on a loan the PUD took out for the turbine.
In December of 2013, the utility hired former millworker John Pellegrini to oversee the site cleanup. The PUD is paying Pellegrini $90,000 per year to oversee the project, and estimates it will take about two years.
Ian Cope, a spokesman for the PUD, said utility officials are still working to create a plan for the rest of the cleanup.