This story was first published on Feb. 7.
Icon Materials, the contractor from last summer’s highway paving project, took action last week and began removing the asphalt millings from Misty Isle Farms’ roadways. Icon is expected to address the millings stockpiled next to the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie as soon as the Misty Isle project is complete.
Last November, county officials said that the three stockpiles of millings left behind from the summer’s main highway paving project were the priority for removal, followed by those spread at Misty Isle Farms. Icon removed the stockpile at the county’s Mileta Pit at the time, but no additional visible progress had been made since then. Last week, that changed, with workers beginning the process of removing approximately 4 inches of millings from 2 miles of roadway at Misty Isle, according to county documents. A trucker on the project said they were transporting the millings to Belfair, on the isthmus between the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas. The millings on the main highway were slated to be removed as early as last Friday; the recent weather caused a delay. But as of last week, the fate of the final stockpile, at the property of D&R Excavating’s Doug Hoffmann, had not been determined. Last Thursday, Hoffmann, a subcontractor in the paving project, said he had not yet decided how to proceed, adding that he had a meeting scheduled with the county on Tuesday, after press time. County officials have warned Hoffmann that they are considering criminal charges against him for his stockpiling, disposal and sale of the millings. They have also notified him, via a letter sent in October, that he must clean up all the millings he deposited or be “financially responsible for the full cost of County abatement activity.”
Meanwhile, millings still remain on the property of several businesses and individuals around the island. Jim Chan, the director of the Permitting Division for King County Local Services, said county officials will soon make a determination about how they will deal with those. He said progress had been delayed because of weather, work involving Misty Isle Farms and the holidays, but he expects progress in the near term.
“We are actively moving now,” he said last Wednesday. “I think everyone is engaged, and things are moving rapidly.”
Concerns about the millings — ground up asphalt removed from the highway — have been circulating since last summer. King County code restricts their use on the island because it is a critical aquifer recharge area. But by last November, with all the millings still on the island, the Vashon-Maury Groundwater Protection Committee sent King County Councilmember Jim McDermott and other county officials a letter. In it, they expressed their concern about the millings, in particular, those at Misty Isle Farms because they were in Burton Water Company’s watershed, and its shallow wells had been previously affected by pollutants.
The letter requested “immediate follow through” and removal of the millings from the island, with the focus for removal on the millings at Misty Isle.
On Monday of this week, Michael Brown, who chairs the committee, said county officials did not respond to that letter. He noted the length of time this process has taken.
“We started this discussion in August, pushed hard in November and now we are in February,” he said.
Brown, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington, said he understands the county’s ordinances against millings’ use and that contractual obligations need to be fulfilled. But he indicated he does not believe that removing the millings now has value, from a scientific perspective.
“The most leachable components would have been washed out of the millings in the first heavy rainfalls,” he said.
From that same perspective, he said that he does not believe there is a risk to the water from the millings in place on businesses’ and individuals’ private property.
“Personally, I think the quantities are small and distributed enough that there is low risk,” he said.
However, opinions differ among those involved with millings, and last week’s action at Misty Isle Farms was good news for Evan Simmons, one of the co-owners of the Burton Water Company. Simmons and fellow owner Jim Garrison had repeatedly expressed concern about the millings’ potential for pollution.
“I am extremely pleased about their removal,” Simmons said. “I had a long period of loss of hope because it has been months and months and months of no action and poor communication from the county.”
Simmons said he and Garrison contacted the county with concerns last July shortly after seeing that millings were being spread at Misty Isle. Ultimately, they hired an attorney and conducted their own informal testing of the millings by putting some in a bucket with water and then sending the leachate off to a lab. The results showed several contaminants above maximum levels for drinking water. Simmons, who stressed the test was not scientific, said he and Garrison did the test as a demonstration of their concern and to encourage the county to remove the millings.
Simmons said with their removal, his worry about potential pollution is being alleviated.
“If they are fully removed, I have no long-term concerns,” he said.
He noted that this process has been expensive for the water company, which has spent approximately $20,000 this year, including on legal and lab fees and his and Garrison’s time.
“We blew the water company budget. We lost a lot of money last year,” he said.
He noted it is unclear if they will recoup those funds through rate increases, which would need to be approved through a process with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.
Meanwhile, county officials previously said they had 10 open code enforcement cases against those who had used millings. In November, they were given a list of approximately 40 addresses believed to have acquired the millings after the paving project, and Chan said last week county officials will soon determine how to proceed with those. As he did in November, he said that he is hopeful that Icon Materials will obtain a permit to remove the millings from private property, and then property owners will be contacted with their options.
Paul Peretti is the president of the Shawnee Hills Condo Association, located on Wesleyan Way. Fourteen homes all share the road, well and water system and the maintenance involved. They first ordered millings more than a year and a half ago from CalPortland, and they liked them, as they were dust-free. They cost $450 per truckload, and the association brought in four truckloads, he said. When the highway project began this summer, they realized they had the opportunity to buy more, this time through Hoffmann, and at a much lower price. They bought nearly 30 truckloads for a .6 mile stretch of road at $100 per load, he said, and were again generally pleased with this material. They received a code violation letter from the county last fall, but their situation has been on apparent hold.
“I have been waiting to hear something from somebody,” he said over the weekend. “We are waiting to hear from someone what the resolution is going to be.”
He has some questions, he said, including how the millings will be removed, who will pay for their removal and what the replacement will be.
“We do not want a big, muddy mess on our road,” he said, noting that he has reached out to both the county and Icon Materials for further information. “We are just waiting for somebody.”
This version indicates Michael Brown believes there is low risk from the millings at Misty Isle Farms, instead of no risk, as previously stated.