HANSVILLE, Wash. – The waves crash and birds chirp.
In between, the excavators churn.
That’s because this town with no stop light is in the midst of a major federally-backed construction project. The state is digging up tons of contaminated dirt and groundwater near the Hansville General Store.
“We needed to remove the threat,” says Washington State Department of Ecology Project Manager Russ Olsen, who is overseeing an environmental cleanup near Point No Point.
Olsen says the store, which has stood in the same spot since 1929, is the source of a problem dating back decades. For years, the store also had gas pumps and underground tanks which leaked. Even after their removal nearly 20 years ago, they are responsible for contamination of the soil and groundwater.
“This one rose to the top (of our concerns),” says Olsen, “We have proximity to the Puget Sound and we also have the contamination that was surrounding the water line that serviced the area.” On top of that, says Olsen, there are nearby wetlands.
Crews have pulled nearly 4,000 tons of contaminated soil out of the ground and shipped it to a Bremerton treatment facility.
But the state couldn’t pay for the cleanup until now. The DOE says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or Federal Stimulus Bill, paid for the $600,000 project.
“Back in the 50s and 60s no one worried about groundwater. They dumped gas on the ground in places," says Gary Erickson, whose family has owned the property since 1934. He welcomed the federal stimulus money and the cleanup.
But not everyone has been on the same page.
The contamination is under the only road in and out of town. The owner of the store also says his business hasn’t been stimulated.
“I’m down 20-25 percent (since the project started),” says Hansville General Store owner Whit McLeod, “I’d wish they’d give some of it to me. But they’re on schedule and working hard.”
Olsen admits not everyone is happy, but they believe the project will have benefits in the long term.
“We put 20-25 people to work, and we’re achieving a cleanup to a site that would not have moved forward,” he says. The project will be finished in a week or two.
The DOE says this is the third such project using federal stimulus money. Two other former gas stations, which sit near Darrington and Port Orchard, were also cleaned. The state plans to use the money to clean up the groundwater and soil at seven other spots in small towns around the region.