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High Dioxin Levels Found in Waterway near K-C's Closed Pulp Mill in Everett, Wash.

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Kimberly-Clark (Dallas, Texas, USA) permanently closed its Everett, Wash., pulp mill last month after negotiations to sell it to Atlas Holdings broke down over environmental issues related to Everett's East Waterway, which is part of the governor's Puget Sound Initiative to clean up pollutants. Scientists are studying the area's pollution and who should be responsible to clean it up. The waterway has been identified to contain dioxin, a carcinogenic toxin produced during bleaching of pulp with elemental chlorine.

According to a report this weekend in the Bellingham Herald, Bellingham, Wash., tests have now found dioxin levels in the waterway next to the plant at 15 times the level the state considers safe. Petroleum contamination also has been found at the 66-acre plant site, according to newspaper reports. Oil companies used parts of the site for petroleum storage and distribution during much of the 20th century.

Reportedly, most of the pollution was in the bay before K-C bought the plant in 1995. But under state law, the current owner of a property is liable for the cost of cleanup. A cleanup plan could be developed as early as next year and for the waterway by 2014, Andy Kallus, who is in charge of Port Gardner pollution sites for the Ecology Department, told the Bellingham Herald. Cleanup of the waterway will likely involve dredging, while contaminated soil on land would be dug out, Kallus said. Cleanup costs could reach into the millions of dollars.

The Everett mill was started up in 1931 as Puget Sound Pulp and Timber Co. It became Soundview Pulp Co. in 1935 and was purchased by Scott Paper in 1951. Scott merged with K-C in 1985. Since the merger, K-C has invested some $300 million in the Everett operations, installing major wastewater treatment systems, adding a new effluent outfall, and switching its pulp bleaching from elemental chlorine to chlorine dioxide.


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