Gorst Creek Landfill cleanup comes with hefty price tag

Various garbage, from a landfill just upstream, sits in Gorst Creek near a culvert that runs underneath State Route 3. - Kevan Moore/Staff photo
Various garbage, from a landfill just upstream, sits in Gorst Creek near a culvert that runs underneath State Route 3.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/Staff photo

A new report put out by the Environmental Protection Agency says that protecting Gorst Creek from the Bremerton Auto Wrecking Landfill will cost at least $2.6 million.

The landfill, which operated from the 1950s to 1989 and contains about 150,000 cubic yards of waste, is not on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites, but is considered dangerous to human and environmental health.

The recently released engineering estimate and cost assessment report has been years in the making and offers various alternatives, one as much as $34 million, to protect the creek or clean up the site.

"It's a complicated site and we're still potentially in for a long process, but at least it's a couple steps forward and I'm hoping we can do some work there to, shall we say, get beyond the constant dripping faucet going into Gorst Creek and the Sound," said Jeff Rodin, a regional EPA coordinator.

The 5.7 acre landfill site at 4275 State Route 3 is about 6 miles southwest of downtown Bremerton and centered above 880 feet of the Gorst Creek Ravine. In 1968, according to the EPA, a 24-inch corrugated steel culvert was installed along the base of the ravine so that it could be filled with waste and Gorst Creek could flow through the culvert beneath the landfill. Waste was placed on top of the culvert until the pile became approximately even with the top of the ravine.  In 1997 and 2002, after significant storm events, Gorst Creek backed up on the upstream side of the landfill and overtopped the  surface of the landfill, causing a portion of the northwest slope of the landfill to fail and wash downstream into Gorst Creek.

Sediment and groundwater sampling results have indicated the presence of contaminants associated with landfill waste. The eroded waste in the stream sediments and groundwater is being transported into the Gorst Creek watershed. The contamination at the Site includes pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, semi-volatile organic compounds, metals, and volatile organic compounds.

The new EPA report considers three alternatives for dealing with the landfill site. The estimated implementation costs for the removal action alternatives are $2,630,000 for a bypass installed using micro-tunneling or pipe-jacking techniques, $8,520,000 for a bypass channel constructed around the landfill, and $34,080,000 for removal and off-site disposal of the landfill contents.

The preferred alternative, based on effectiveness, implementability and cost, is the pipejacking approach.

"Installing a creek bypass pipe would reduce the potential for backup and overtopping of the landfill during significant storm events by providing a new primary pathway for Gorst Creek beneath landfill," the report states. "It would prevent further landfill embankment erosion mitigating potential contamination and waste migration to protect human health and the environment."

Rodin said that following a public comment period and meeting with area stakeholders later this month, the EPA will work on getting funding for the project. He said that one likely source for at least some of the money will be the U.S. Navy, which dumped medical waste at the site and is so far the only "viable responsible party" that has been identified.

"The unfortunate part of there not being a real high risk or threat is that it's not easy to get the money and take next steps to stabilize that place," Rodin said.

Nonetheless, Rodin thinks that once project money is secured, a local government will be more willing to step forward and commit to future maintenance of the site, something that will be required before moving forward.


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