By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
The city of Monroe now knows what’s in the old city landfill, located in the north Kelsey area west of the Galaxy Theatre, and is considering whether it’s worth it to clean it up to sell for commercial land.
Earlier this year council voted unanimously to contract with an engineering firm called The Riley Group to conduct an investigation on what materials remain buried there and then determine the feasibility of a site clean-up in an effort to re-purpose this commercial property.
The investigation, which took place in several phases, is now complete and the final report has been submitted to city staff. While the prognosis is generally good, with soil samples not indicative of hazardous contaminants, a comprehensive cleanup of the site would be costly.
“The majority of the samples came back really good, nothing that raised any big alarms,” said City Administrator Gene Brazel. “Primarily, all the waste was something that we could handle pretty easily.”
The Monroe solid waste landfill was in operation from 1958 to 1979 and is part of an 11.3 acre tract of commercial land. When the landfill was closed it was topped off by a “soil cap” and the area has since been routinely inspected by the Snohomish County Health District.
The final report submitted by The Riley Group has indicated that landfill material extends over approximately 5.7 acres of the 11.3 acre parcel.
Landfill materials were discovered to be concentrated in two different areas; the main landfill area which is located just behind Fred Meyer, and the east hill area which is north of the main landfill area, closer to Galaxy Theatre.
Fifteen test pits were dug out around the landfill’s perimeter, with additional borings taken from the main landfill area and the east hill area. Soil samples were collected from the borings, which indicated a landfill material thickness of approximately 28 feet in some areas. Landfill cover soil in the main landfill area was determined to vary in thickness from three to eight feet.
Staff presented the findings to council last week, providing three options for consideration; selling the site as-is, cleaning up the site and selling it after, or leaving the site as-is.
Brazel provided council with several cost estimates based on varying degrees of action. He also noted that there is still some uncertainty with regards to the amount of waste buried at the site.
“We feel we’ve got a pretty good handle on the location of the garbage but there could be some veins that run outside of where we put our test pits and that type of thing,” said Brazel.
Removing part of the refuse, which would essentially entail excavating out a portion of the landfill material closest to the Galaxy parking lot, would cost approximately $800,000. The majority of the landfill would remain at the site; however, an additional building lot and parking area could be made available via this option.
Relocating a portion of the site would cost $1.7 million and would entail hauling away some of the waste. The remaining material would be pushed and restacked either to the north or to the west.
Comprehensive cleanup of the entire site would take approximately eight months and is estimated at $3 million. That cost estimate reflects simply hauling away all the landfill refuse and does not take into account any salvaged material value that would potentially be available on the recyclable or otherwise usable materials such as glass, gravel and metal.
The general consensus among council was not in favor of the city taking the lead on an extensive site cleanup project. Councilmember Tom Williams requested additional information on how much the site would be worth if it was cleaned, versus the costs to clean it.
“I think it would not be wise for the city to spend $3 million so that we could turn around and sell it for $3 million,” said Williams.
Councilmember Kurt Goering was also against the city performing site cleanup in what could potentially end up a cost-neutral endeavor.
“I don’t want to be in the cleanup business,” said Goering.
It is too early to attempt to estimate exactly what the property would be worth if it were completely cleaned and signed off by the Snohomish County Health District. Economic Development Coordinator Jeff Sax established that a price tag of $3 million reflects a square foot cost of $6, and recent land sales in the Kelsey area generated significantly more than that.
The $6 per square foot figure is low estimate for this type of commercial property, once it’s cleaned.
“The property’s worth more than that, for sure,” said Sax.
“Without hearing more information, I would much rather the city not be in the cleanup business, and market it to somebody who wants to do that,” said Williams.
Brazel stated that, now that they have the information provided by the Riley Group, they will be able to pursue achieving a determination on possible salvaged material valuation, and can better market the parcel with full disclosure as far as what the landfill contains.
Brazel said that the reason there are still so many unknowns is due to the unique nature of the project.
“Landfill sites aren’t cleaned up every day,” said Brazel.