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Oak Harbor Airport put on hazardous sites list

Oak Harbor Airport has been added to the Department of Ecology's newest list of hazardous sites in the state, but the airfield's neighbor isn't concerned at all.

"It's pretty ridiculous," Omer Lupien said. "A lot of time and effort went into testing and all they found was some paint chips in the grass."

The airport site was ranked as a 4 in a system where 1 is the most serious risk and 5 is the least serious. The site joins four other areas on the island also considered hazardous.

Michael Barenburg, the environmental health specialist at the Island County Health Department, did the testing at the airport for the Department of Ecology. He said Ecology received a complaint that a man had stripped paint off his airplane.

Barenburg said soil tests revealed "elevated levels of cadmium and lead" on the property. He explained that paint on airplanes can contain the toxic heavy metals.

The airport site was among 27 properties added this month to the list targeted for cleanup. More than 9,000 contaminated sites have been identified in the past 14 years, while more than half have been cleaned up.

Michael Spencer, an environmental specialist with the state Department of Ecology, said sites get on the list after someone complains and a site hazard assessment shows contamination to be at levels above set limits.

Spencer said the ranking system allows Ecology to set priorities and aggressively push for cleanup at the worst sites. He said it is the property owner's responsibility to pay for the cleanup, but sometimes the state has to take over.

Other Whidbey Island hazardous sites on the list include the Adamson building in Langley, ranked as a 5, which has petroleum contamination. The site is currently being cleaned. Sites at Cornet Bay Marina and Whidbey Oil in Clinton are both considered 5s because of fuel spills.

The Unocal Coupeville Bulk Plant is ranked as a 1 because a more serious petroleum leak, Spencer said, but cleanup is nearly complete.

The Nichols Brothers property in Freeland was taken off the list, according to Spencer, because the contamination from heavy oil and diesel is no longer above the limit. The limit, in parts per millions, was "administratively changed," he said.

Spencer said the sites are ranked based on the seriousness of contamination as well as other factors, such as proximity of homes.

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