A brownfield usually isn’t quite a wasteland, but some come pretty close to being lost to productive use. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfield grant being sought Pacific County and several other local entities holds genuine promise of helping restore sites that have sat for decades and may otherwise continue to languish.
There is a broad range of brownfields. On the worst end of the spectrum, long-time area residents may remember the old Astoria plywood mill, which was an ungodly mess until a public/private collaboration cleaned it up and located the upscale Mill Pond Village subdivision on the site in east Astoria.
Other brownfields are less obvious. In Pacific County and elsewhere, they often have legacy pollutants left over from abandoned gasoline-filling stations. Others in this maritime-oriented area were once places where boats were worked on. Between our high water table and closeness to the ocean, bay, rivers and lakes, this pollution has the potential of migrating quite a distance.
Sensitivities about pollution are such that these problems can get in the way of obtaining loans and grants to redevelop otherwise desirable property. This is a considerable problem in southwest Pacific County, where little industrial-zoned land is available.
This grant request deserves enthusiastic support by Pacific County citizens and leaders. The initial $600,000 won’t pay for any actual cleanup, but will go a long way toward helping learn the extent of problems and begin developing action plans.
Development and population growth are inevitable throughout Western Washington this century. Brownfield pollution is one of the factors that holds back high-quality projects in rural areas like ours. By starting to deal with these situations in more robust ways, we can lay the groundwork for creating a diverse economic future with more of the good-paying jobs needed to keep young people here.