Clatskanie city officials were notified at this month’s council meeting of an environmental concern at the former Johnson Oil location on Columbia River Highway. The county currently owns the property.
Several Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees accompanied Columbia County Commissioner Margaret Magruder to the City Council meeting. She handed out maps showing the contaminated area to the council and said although tanks had been removed from the site or decommissioned, the site itself must be cleaned up before it can be used.
“There is funding available, but we need to determine what we can do that would benefit the community with this piece of property,” Magruder said. “The County would like the City to give us some input.”
Magruder said members of the Clatskanie Farmers Market who might be interested in the old gas station property had approached her. She said she supposed after a $1 million cleanup operation, the site could be paved and used by the market, though she noted it is quite small.
DEQ Regional Solutions representative Jennifer Purcell was among the team that joined Magruder at the meeting. Purcell said the site suffered “significant contamination” and further assessment would be necessary to determine the extent of the problem. City Manager Greg Hinkelman said there was one underground storage tank remaining at the location due its position under the structure, but it was cleaned and sealed, and was no longer an environmental threat.
“There is petroleum contamination at the site,” Purcell said, adding that the contamination has spread towards the river and the adjoining properties. Magruder noted that there had not been any petroleum found in the river that could be traced back to the old gas station site. Public Works director Dave True recalled that during work 25 years ago the crew could smell raw gas while digging at the site, so they put a flame to some dirt and it caught fire.
Last month, Clatskanie and County officials and staff met with the DEQ and members of Business Oregon to discuss the future of the site. Going forward with the cleanup, the state wants local input about what to do with the site. Mayor Bob Brajcich said several residents have approached him about a charging station for electric and hybrid vehicles, and the site would be suited for that.
“There will be a significant public investment in getting this particular piece of property cleaned up and available for redevelopment,” Purcell said. She said federal dollars from the Environmental Protection Agency would pay for assessing the contamination. She added that Business Oregon has state and federal funds to assist with the cleanup.
Magruder asked city officials to continue the discussion about the site and plot a course for its future.