This week, months after the completion of the highway paving project last summer, the paving contractor began to remove stockpiled asphalt millings from the island and is expected to remove more, including from businesses and other private properties in the weeks ahead, according to King County officials.
ICON Materials began that removal work on Monday at the county’s Mileta Pit, which is near the Vashon Golf & Swim Club and has an operational permit in place for activity throughout the year.
Last week, Jim Chan, assistant director at the county’s Department of Permitting and Environmental Review (DPER), stressed that plans were subject to change as he did not yet have a finalized proposal from ICON. However, he said he expected the contractor to remove 7,000 tons of the millings from the Mileta Pit and transport them off-island via barge over seven days. After that, attention is expected to turn to two other stockpiles, one on the property of D & R Excavating’s Doug Hoffmann, the subcontractor in the paving project, and at Center across from Williams Heating. Those property owners would need to give permission for the millings’ removal, Chan said. He added the stockpiles, which hold thousands of tons of millings, are ICON’s first priority. Next in the priority line is Misty Isle Farms, which would also need to give permission for the millings’ removal. Chan has spoken with the manager of Misty Isle, he said, and expects to know if they will agree to removal as early as this week.
Once the stockpiled millings are gone, Chan said that he expects ICON will contact property owners who have open enforcement cases against them because of the millings’ storage or use and offer to remove the material at no cost.
“That is the plan, but I have not seen it,” he said, noting that he expects ICON to send the county a formalized plan this week. Once he has that, he said, outreach will begin.
“I will be working with the county communications team to get that information to property owners so they can make an educated decision on whether to accept that offer or not. That is my hope,” he said, again stressing that he did not have a final plan from ICON in hand.
Millings — ground up asphalt that was removed from the road before the new layer of asphalt was put on last summer — have been the subject of much scrutiny and controversy since the paving project got underway. County codes restrict its use on Vashon, a critical aquifer recharge area, but it was stockpiled in unpermitted locations on the island and spread on several roadways, parking areas and driveways around Vashon-Maury islands. That work also was conducted without permits. At least one DPER official has said that the department likely would not issue permits for millings’ use and that the project requirements, such as water quality and storm water flow control measures, could easily be cost prohibitive.
Last week, the Vashon-Maury Island Groundwater Protection Committee held a meeting about the millings where several members of the committee raised concerns about the millings’ possible effects to island groundwater. They also questioned the county’s oversight of the paving project and stressed the county’s responsibility for the material. Two county officials also attended and shared information about removing the millings with committee members at that time.
Among the most pressing concerns for most committee members is the presence of the millings at Misty Isle Farms, in the watershed of the Burton Water Company. At last week’s meeting, the committee voted to express to the county that it would like to see immediate action at Misty Isle Farms to protect that watershed. A letter from the committee to the county is expected to be forthcoming.
Currently, the county has 10 open code enforcement cases having to do with the millings. At the meeting last week, county officials received potential word of more than 40 properties where the millings may have been used. As of Monday of this week, DPER officials had not yet determined how to proceed with that information but are expected to review it this week, according to DPER’s Interim Director Randy Sandin.
One of the homeowners with a code enforcement case currently open attended the meeting and discussed his situation there and in recent phone conversations.
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 about 18 months ago, separately from the recent paving project, he said, and they liked them, as they were dust-free. When the highway project began this summer, they realized they had the opportunity to buy more and at a much lower price. They bought 30 truckloads from Hoffmann at $100 per load, he said, and were again generally pleased with this material. Then bit by bit, they started to hear that there might be problems with using millings and ultimately received a code violation letter from the county. That letter indicated they would need to respond by Nov. 30 and pay a $700 fee to move forward in the process.
“We are in this quandary, we do not want to be out of compliance, but we also want to have justice,” he said at the meeting.
He noted that he had reached out to the code enforcement officer, but had not yet heard back. Following the meeting, he spoke with Chan and per that conversation said he expected to communicate with the enforcment officer about the likely pending action with ICON.
In a conversation with The Beachcomber, Chan addressed the condo association’s situation, given that a plan is pending.
“Obviously, we do not want to waste people’s money,” he said. “We are not going to penalize anyone for missing a timeline on that notice,” he said.
One of the questions on many people’s minds is just how dangerous — or not — millings might be for Vashon-Maury water. Chan shared his thoughts.
“For me if it were a normal aquifer, if it was not a critical recharge area or system, I probably would say no, I would not be worried,” Chan said. “But given the shallowness of the Burton aquifer and the sensitivity of the aquifer … it does raise some questions. I am not saying I am worried. I am saying it is questionable.”
As for advice to islanders who have millings in their driveways and roadways, he indicated he is hopeful he will be able to offer a resolution soon.
“Standby. I am hopeful that the stars will align and that we can get a speedy resolution on this,” he said.