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Hansville recycling business rooted in conflict

Metal recycler Bob Eyer stands on his property where he sorts and recycles scrap metal. The bins in the background are filled with sorted metal and regularly picked up by haulers. Eyer works in the yard on a daily basis. - Brad Camp/Staff photo
Metal recycler Bob Eyer stands on his property where he sorts and recycles scrap metal. The bins in the background are filled with sorted metal and regularly picked up by haulers. Eyer works in the yard on a daily basis.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff photo

Ecology deems Hansville property hazard site.

HANSVILLE — Bob Eyer’s lifelong love is granting new life to old material. When the Hansville resident was a boy, he built homemade tractors and farm machinery from scrap metal with his dad, Joe Eyer, who operated a recycling and trucking yard. Back then, his dad owned about 40 acres on the corner of Little Boston Road.

For years, Eyer, 62, continued the business, taking in the community’s old, non-disposable items.

What people didn’t want in their yards — old boats, trucks and cars — they took to his.

“A lot of people out here in Hansville don’t have the money to get rid of stuff and the garbage dump won’t take a lot of it,” Eyer said. “We are the only place out here this side of Poulsbo that takes everything.”

Even as some residents used the service, others were concerned the recycling center was harmful to the environment. It was those residents who raised ire with the county. Eventually, the battle reached the state level.

Recently, Washington state Department of Ecology ranked the property — now less than six acres — as a level one, hazardous site due to it’s potential to contaminate.

The hazardous sites list is required by state law. It includes all sites that have been assessed and ranked using the Washington ranking method.

Larry Altose, DOE’s Northwest public information officer, said DOE ranks the sites in comparison to other hazardous sites in Washington with consideration to potential health risks and contamination in groundwater, surface water and air.

“At this time we didn’t find anything on the groundwater but did rank the site because of its potential to (contaminate),” said Lucas Jordan, environmental health specialist for Kitsap County Health Department’s Solid and Hazardous Waste division, responsible for the site’s testing.

The site summary from Kitsap County Health District states Eyer operated an automotive recycling and scrap metal business on the property without a permit. According to the state law, recycling businesses do not need a permit as long as state required standards are met. Requirements include operating in a manner non-threatening to human or environmental health.

Eyer said he possesses a business license under Eyer Trucking for his operation and due to the amount of time the property and business continued within the family, his land should be exempt by grandfather clause.

Jordan said previous attempts to inspect the Eyer property were futile; legal action was necessary to acquire the latest samples in May.

Testing of the property included five soil samples and one sample of both groundwater and surface water.

“(Contamination) was fairly site specific, however we do factor in the worst-case scenario,” Jordan said, adding soil contaminants of most concern were diesel, heavy oil, cadmium — a heavy metal associated with radiator fluid and car batteries — and minor levels of lead.

“It’s most likely from the amount of sitting vehicles in the yard and automotive demolition,” Jordan said, adding at one point the Health Department believed there were between 200 to 800 cars on the property.

Eyer said that was never the case.

“The county knows I’ve been here. I’m not hiding,” Eyer said, adding that business practices haven’t changed during his lifetime. “I wish I had had 800, I would have made some money.”

Eyer said at the largest point of the business maybe 500 cars sat on his property.

Since then he said he’s taken out about 420 cars and estimates he only has 120 cars currently on the land.

Altose said with a number one ranking Eyer has three options: Clean it up independently, pay for cleanup by entering the property into a voluntary cleanup program or DOE could take it on as a managed site under the state cleanup law.

“There are more NO. 1 sites than there are available staff to manage the cleanup,” Altose said. “We have to look at our priorities to see if we need to add it right away to the list of managed sites.”

Both Eyer and Jordan are in agreement on one thing: the site has seen drastic cleanup and improvements.

“He has been cleaning up recently,” Jordan said. “He cleared quite a few vehicles recently and has been getting a lot of stuff off the property. We were out in May and did a quick count and estimated 175 vehicles were there. He has removed quite a few.”

Jordan said in ranking the site the Health Department looked at the surrounding two-mile radius, taking into account the population served by the groundwater within that radius.

“Two miles is a very, very long way to travel and we didn’t find any contamination in his personal water source, which is a hand-dug well,” Jordan said, adding older, hand-dug wells are still common in that area of Hansville.

Jordan said his count of a two-mile radius included the dense populations on the tip of the peninsula and estimated more than 4,000 people get their drinking water from ground water within that area.

John Kiess, drinking water program manager for Kitsap County Health, estimated only 190 residential connections to both private and public wells in the two mile radius from the intersection of Little Boston Road.

Kiess said he used a Geographical Information System map to view the property parcels to come up with that estimate of the area. Kiess said the Health Department may not have records for all the private wells in that area of Hansville because some wells were dug before the county started to monitor the wells.

The driving force for the ranking of the level one was the toxicity of the lead found in the soil samples, Jordan said.

Other Kitsap County ranked sites on the DOE’s state cleanup list include the Unocal Station 4388 on Bainbridge Island, ranked a level two, and both the Gorst Gas Mart in Gorst and Park Avenue Cleaners in Bremerton received level three rankings.

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