Permits to start clearing contaminated soil along Industrial Way in Longview could be secured this summer, with cleanup starting in 2023, officials say.
Current work at the former Reynolds Metals Company site is not cleanup, but the demolition of buildings by the current company to make way for future projects, as well as nearby routine power pole replacements by the local utilities district.
Washington State Department of Ecology spokesperson Dave Bennett said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could OK cleanup permits in the next few months to clear contaminated soil at Northwest Alloys, the former Reynolds Metals site. He said work could begin next spring and crews would need two dry seasons to complete the cleanup.
The Corps of Engineers has to approve the permits because work will be done near the Columbia River diking system and in and around wetlands, Bennett added.
In 2019, the Department of Ecology announced a $28 million cleanup at the former Reynolds Metal plant, including excavating and capping contaminated soil on-site and disposing of soil contaminated with petroleum off-site. Efforts were slated to start in 2019, but the pandemic partly slowed the process, Bennett said.
An aluminum smelter and cable mill ran on the property for almost 60 years, leaving contaminants like fluoride and cyanide in the soil, the state says. The smelter closed in 2001. Alcoa purchased the land from Reynolds Metals that year.
Kristin Gaines, Western U.S. director of transformation for Alcoa, said she is hopeful cleanup will start in 2023, but the wait does not prevent the site from being developed or leased today. The last tenant of the site was the proposed coal exporter Millennium Bulk Terminals.
Alcoa, the parent company of Northwest Alloys, is reviewing options for leasing or development agreements but did not want to slow the cleanup process, Gaines said.
Now, crews are razing buildings to prepare the property for development. Gaines said more structures are slated for demolition on the Northwest Alloys site than will remain on the 510 acres. Gaines said Northwest Alloys is keeping its “critical infrastructure” around areas like its road sand dock, as well as rail loading and unloading areas and storage silos.
Northwest Alloys does not produce aluminum in Longview. Gaines said the company earns profits by warehousing materials and transloading for nearby businesses.