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EPA begins process of evaluating the KHS site

KINGSTON — In what looks to be a tough road ahead, the Environmental Protection Agency called an informal meeting to discuss how it will conduct testing of the former Nike missile site that could potentially become the new Kingston High School in 2006.

The Oct. 22 session at Kingston Community Center brought together for the first time many of the different people who have been arguing the issue as to whether or not the former missile site is safe for the planned 800-student high school.

Denise Baker, who will be the site assessment manager for the EPA investigation, explained how the probe would be performed and then allowed time for public feedback.

“We don’t have much information to share at this point, because we just started,” Baker said. “But here we are.”

EPA testing will first include research and analysis of former and concurrent studies of the area. Baker said that if the EPA feels that there was not enough previous analysis, it could begin its own testing as early as December.

In conducting the “preliminary assessment site investigation,” Baker will have to complete the study in one year from the Aug. 8 date the EPA received a petition questioning the KHS site.

The author of the petition, Terry Benish, was also present at the meeting.

With Benish, site neighbors Stuart and Mary Anderson, Ken Lassesen, and Bim Prince expressed concerns they had about building a school on the property.

Lassesen presented a document he received from Twiss Analytical Laboratories, Inc. in Poulsbo, stating his well water contained “characteristics consistent with several of the chemicals on the Nike site list.” Lassesen also claimed he and his family have been affected by strange illnesses that were possibly brought on by Nike site contaminants in their well water.

Gene Medina, North Kitsap School District Superintendent, had a chance to speak about the history of the site and purchasing. The school district, which is conducting an investigation of its own through a Kane Environmental, a consulting firm, yielded time for representative Tom Cammarata to speak about his ongoing analysis.

Kane’s investigation of the site will cost the district about $100,000, with about $67,000 of those funds allocated for chemical analysis.

“I think (the investigation) is excessive,” Cammarata said. “But it needs to be done to meet your concerns,” as he looked at the row of concerned neighbors and advocates.

Kane Environmental expects to complete its site investigation by the first of next year, Medina said.

Also present at the meeting were Karen Ahern and Maria Mason, who represented the Bainbridge Island-based Coalition for Environmentally Safe Schools. The pair said they were outraged at the idea of building on a Nike missile site and afraid of the mysteries that surround military activities in both the use and clean-up.

“The government has really kept the (Nike) sites a secret,” Ahern said. “Looking at the sites, they were just really sloppy.”

“This is a hornet’s nest,” Mason said. “Let’s use this as an example and get out of there.”

Ahern also mentioned that an expert on the site clean-ups had told her that the choice of the site was not acceptable, saying that “laying down in front of the bulldozers,” was not out of the question.

School Board member Dick Endresen, who has been on the board throughout the Kingston High School planning process, said he was surprised at what he was hearing from neighbors and advocates alike.

“I am hearing information today that I wish I had heard on the school board when we bought the property,” he said.

Baker said the EPA would host another meeting in about two months to give an update on progress.

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