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EPA accelerates date to complete Nike site report

POULSBO — Amid pressure from the school district and even congressman Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stepped up efforts to have a final analysis completed on the proposed Kingston High School site by July 16.

“I just wanted you to know ... that we are going forward with this aggressive schedule,” EPA site assessment manager Denise Baker wrote in a recent e-mail to many of the concerned parties. “...You can expect to see EPA and our contractors in Kingston on April 27.”

Baker added that the April 27 work is pending permission from NKSD.

After testing the site during that time, Baker said, the EPA will conduct laboratory tests and aims to have all analysis completed for public review by mid-July.

That date is about six weeks in advance of the time Baker had originally outlined at a public meeting in Kingston a month ago. The new date eases the strain on NKSD’s own timeline to open a high school on the West Kingston site in September 2006.

“It’s very helpful,” Robin Shoemaker, NKSD’s Director of Capital Programs, said of the change. “It’s the difference between the project going forward this summer as planned as opposed to waiting until next year.”

The EPA is studying the former Nike missile site to see if it poses any risks to human health given that the NKSD has plans to build a new high school near the former Army site. The District conducted $115,000 worth of testing through Seattle-firm Kane Environmental but the EPA was also petitioned by Indianola concerned citizen Terry Benish last August.

The step-up by the EPA is important for the district largely because the Kitsap County Department of Community Development has said it will not issue a Site Development Activity Permit until it sees the EPA report. If the EPA can finish by mid-July, the District can go-ahead with its original timeline of breaking ground by early August.

U.S. Representative Inslee wrote a letter to EPA Regional Administrator John Iani explaining an “urgent matter” by the District to have the EPA’s study completed.

“I respectfully request that EPA complete its review in an expedited manner so that the North Kitsap School District can begin its project without delay,” Inslee wrote to the EPA.

But the new July completion date is by no means written in stone, Baker cautioned.

“If anybody is late, even a day, (the completion date) could be thrown off a week or more,” she said.

Not everyone in the community is thrilled with the EPA’s accelerated timeline. Ken Lassesen, who owns the 25 acres to the north of the high school site, said that he’s worried the testing will be done too quickly. He is opting not to rely solely on the federal agency’s testing.

“As a former college chemistry teacher, I know that rushed laboratory results

are very prone to errors,” Lassesen said. “In light of this, we will likely have our well water tested independently.”

NKSD will first need a forest practice permit from the county to log the property and can also obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) from the Kitsap DCD. But the county won’t budge on the Site Development Activity Permit, which authorizes grading and clearing of site, until the EPA report is finished.

“We’re not going to issue any type of site disturbance (permitting) until after we have the EPA report,” DCD Environmental Review Manager Rick Kimball said.

Kimball did go onto say that the other federal investigation being done on the site by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will not interfere with the issuance of the Site Development Activity Permit. The ATSDR and Washington Department of Health will conduct their own study of the site after the EPA finishes its analysis.

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