Columbia Gorge Foundry cleanup, planned redevelopment

For many years, the former Columbia Gorge Aluminum Smelter was a mainstay of the local Klickitat County economy, providing hundreds of family jobs. It was common for several generations of the same family to work side by side at the foundry.

As with many Washington aluminum smelters along the Columbia River, economic changes and increases in electricity rates in the early 2000s led to the facility’s closure.

Three decades of heavy industrial activities have left behind contamination of soil and groundwater at the site. Taking into account the risk linked to the industrial heritage of the site is a priority for Ecology.

Currently, we are working with the landowner, NSC Smelter, LLC, and the former smelter operator, Lockheed Martin Corporation, to investigate and clean up the remaining waste and contamination.

We are about to complete a Corrective investigation, a study that measures the types of contamination across the entire site. Once we know the extent of the contamination, our next step will be to carry out a Feasibility study, who examines the alternatives to clean it.

When these studies are complete, we will seek feedback on the results and potential cleanup options. We will consider feedback from the tribes and the public when developing a cleanup plan for the entire site.

New Cleanup Plan Targets Proposed Hydroelectric Site

Even as our investigation and cleanup planning progresses, the former smelter site is being examined more closely by developers who see the potential to utilize its location, setting and existing infrastructure.

The Goldendale Energy Storage Project is one such proposal

Free Flow Power Project 101, LLC is proposing to construct a hydroelectric project adjacent to the Columbia River to take advantage of the site’s topography and proximity to the nearby John Day Dam power grid. The project would consist of two reservoirs at different altitudes connected by a tunnel equipped with a reversible turbine.

The project would store energy by pumping water upwards during periods of excess production from renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) and then generate electricity by leaving the water will flow back down through the turbine during peak periods of electricity demand.

The proposed lower tank location is in an area where smelter waste was traditionally disposed of, at the western end of the aluminum plant. Our industrial program works with the requester to develop a cleanup plan for this portion of the site and coordinate it with sitewide cleanup planning. This cleaning would take place before construction of the reservoir could begin.

Public Participation in Goldendale Energy Storage Site Cleanup

We recently developed a public participation plan specifically for the cleanup of the proposed Goldendale Stored Energy site. It provides information on how we will engage with tribes and the public as the cleanup progresses for this portion of the project’s proposed footprint.

We will seek feedback before making any final decisions on the proposed site cleanup plan for the Goldendale Stored Energy Project.

Ongoing state environmental review

Currently, we are also preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) for the entire Goldendale Energy Storage Project. The EIA examines the possible significant adverse impacts resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed hydroelectric project. The draft EIS will be available for public review and comment in early June. You can read more about EIS on our Goldendale Energy Storage project page.

To construct the proposed energy project, the applicant will also need to obtain other state and federal permits and approvals beyond simple site cleanup. The project must obtain permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and others before moving forward.

Site-wide redevelopment potential

Beyond the proposed energy project, the owner of the former smelter site continues to market the remainder of the property for other projects, and it is likely that further redevelopment proposals will emerge.

We remain committed to working with the owner, applicants and the public to return this site to productive economic use.

An important first step is to ensure that any future development addresses the risks to people and the environment posed by legacy contamination from the site. It is also important to us to ensure that cleaning activities for specific redevelopment projects are coordinated with cleaning planning across the site.

We are confident that with careful planning and consideration of public feedback, this property can once again play a key role in the economic vitality of Klickitat County for generations to come.

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