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Dumped chemicals force road closure

An illegal dumping incident forced the closure of Sleeper Road for a time Saturday as authorities dealt with the resulting chemical mess.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Dept. of Ecology is looking for the culprit.

“We’re into the tens of thousands of dollars,” said Carl Anderson, a spill responder for DOE, on Tuesday, referring to clean-up costs. “We’d like to pass the bill on to the responsible party. We don’t know who did it.”

The chemicals were apparently dumped sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, just a short distance from the intersection with Highway 20. Anderson described the area as a gravel pullout along Sleeper Road.

Someone notified the authorities Saturday morning and the response was impressive. Anderson said the Navy’s HAZMAT team arrived, as did the State Patrol, Island County Sheriff’s Office, local fire departments and public works employees.

Marv Koorn, chief of Island County Fire District 2, said firefighters responded to the call first and immediately knew the liquid chemical on the ground was serious business.

“It had a very caustic smell,” he said. “We could tell just by the smell that there was something there that shouldn’t be there.”

Koorn said the department set up a perimeter and notified State Patrol, which is the procedure, at about 2:30 p.m..

He said people from the Department of Ecology and Navy HAZMAT were on the scene until at least 1 a.m. Sunday.

That meant Sleeper Road was closed “for quite a long time,” as Anderson described it.

A contractor was hired to dig up the area of the spill, finishing the job on Monday. Anderson said the equivalent of eight 55-gallon drums of soil was removed and transported to Seattle for analysis.

The type of chemical had yet to be determined as of Tuesday. Anderson said field tests showed it was a base chemical with a Ph value of 14, which is very high. “It will burn your skin,” he said, describing it as corrosive, perhaps a chlorinated solvent.

Apparently someone poured the chemical out of a container onto the ground and cleared out. “They left nothing behind,” Anderson said.

Information sought

Anyone with information about the illegal dumping of chemicals on Sleeper Road Saturday is asked to call local law enforcement or the Carl Anderson at the state Dept. of Ecology, 425-649-7250.

(Reporter Jessie Stensland contributed to this story.}

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