Old gas station sites concern Coupeville

What now looks like two vacant lots and an abandoned building were, at one point, gas stations, and Coupeville officials want to know whether any contamination remains.

Officials hope finishing the remediation work at the unused sites will spark development on the three sites.

Two of the sites are currently vacant lots, and the third is the former Island Mental Health building on Main Street.

Although the properties involved are not owned by the town, it does have an interest in seeing them cleaned up.

“If the owners agree to participate, it would be in the best interests of the community,” said Mayor Nancy Conard.

The two vacant lots, located on opposite sides of town, are zoned commercial and remediation work on those lots needs to be finished before they can be sold and developed, Conard said.

One of the lots is the former Unocal terminal that was on the corner of Coveland and Main Street.

Larry Altose, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Ecology, said the remediation work on the site, located at the corner of Alexander and Coveland, is almost done.

The tanks on the site were removed, contaminated soil was replaced and a well that monitors chemical levels was installed.

Altose said that the site is currently considered a low risk and the contamination level teeters between low-risk and acceptable levels throughout the year.

The town wants to see the cleanup finished because the Unocal site is also close to a well used for emergency purposes.

The lot on the northeast corner of Terry and South Main is in a similar situation to the Unocal terminal in that some remediation work has been done on the property.

The tanks at the former Shell station were removed in 1991 and the contaminated soil was removed and stockpiled in a plastic sheet and remains on the site.

For the Dept. of Ecology to sign off on the site, Altose said the stockpiled soil has to be addressed.

Possible solutions for the soil include removing it or aerating it to let the petroleum products biodegrade.

While there is an idea of the work to be done on the vacant lots, the former Island County Mental Health building is a different story.

The town of Coupeville wants to buy the building from the county, demolish it and extend the neighboring park.

The county has filled in the gas tanks underneath the building, but documentation clearing the site hasn’t been found.

Altose said he hasn’t been able to find any documentation on the building either.

To help fund any possible cleanup work, the town is applying for a Brownfield grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Brownfield grant is designed to promote community revitalization of former industrial or commercial properties that aren’t used.

According to information supplied by Coupeville, rural communities have had difficulty obtaining Brownfield grants because of limited commercial development and a lack of money.

Conard said she hopes that the grant application will be finished by the end of November.

To help produce the grant application, the town council recently approved $3,800 to SVS Engineers to research and put together the grant.

The Bellevue-based engineering firm gave the town a discount on the application work in hope of being in line for doing any remediation work that is funded by the grant.

Should the town be eligible it could receive up to $200,000, but Conard said the actual amount the town would receive depends on the work that needs to be done.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.

com or 675-6611.

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