T he Port of Olympia has signed a $1.5 million contract with a local firm to build a containment cell for the Cascade Pole cleanup project.

Wendy Holden, deputy director of the Port, says the contract with the Wilder Environmental Division of Wilder Construction has a begin date of July 5.

Work is proceeding on the project despite a challenge in federal court. Environmental activists sued the Port this month, saying the project to handle the contaminated sediment from former tenant Cascade Pole on the Budd Inlet shoreline violates state and federal laws. But U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer denied a restraining order that would have halted work on the two-year cleanup.

South Sound residents and plaintiffs Joe Cole, Larry Dudley and Jerry Lee Dierker, Jr. allege in the lawsuit that the project did not undergo required environmental reviews and could endanger chinook salmon.

Port officials defend the way the Port is handling the four-acre project.

“DOE (Department of Ecology) has entered an agreed order. We and they believe it’s the absolute best and most prudent thing to do,” Holden says. “We may need to do more later, but let’s get this bad stuff out of the water now.”

A containment cell into which 60,000 cubic feet of contaminated soils will be placed will have a berm perimeter of up to 62 feet wide at the base, will be 15 feet wide at the top and will be 13 feet high at its highest point, officials say.

A steel sheet-pile wall has been built along one side of the site to keep contaminated groundwater from entering Budd Inlet, says Nick Handy, the Port’s executive director. A treatment system that has been in place for years has been treating contaminated water from the site, which contain substances such as creosote. The Port had leased the industrial property to wood preserving companies between 1939 and 1986. The area is presently covered by an asphalt cap, Holden says.

The total cost of the entire cleanup could be more than $30 million, Port officials say. Of that total, $8 million is being paid for by an insurance company settlement, $4 million by Cascade Pole and the rest by a combination of state grants and the Port’s property tax levy, Handy says.

By Kamilla McClelland, Business Examiner staff