Propose to build a home on property south of Twisp
Owners of a lot south of Twisp must work with the state Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program at to ensure that toxic waste from old mine tailings won’t harm the environment before the owners can proceed with plans to build a house. Property owners Kevin and Bonnie Schmidt must also coordinate with the Yakama Nation to guarantee that construction on the site doesn’t result in toxic discharge to the Methow River, which is adjacent to the property.
In a June 12 letter to the Schmidts, Okanogan County Planning Director Pete Palmer said that she was withdrawing the county’s original environmental determination after receiving comments from the public, agencies and tribes about their proposal to build a 4,400-square-foot house on what Palmer called a “level one hazardous site.” The Schmidts will have to provide a new, detailed site plan environmental checklist before the Planning Department will consider their application, Palmer said. The county’s original determination required soil sampling, but the new requirements go further.
Ecology is currently conducting a periodic review of the site, and the Schmidts must wait for that to be completed before submitting new plans, Palmer said. They will also need an environmental covenant from Ecology, which is required but has never been recorded, Palmer said.
The covenant is a legal mechanism that places restrictions on future use and activities on a site that’s been cleaned up, but where residual contamination remains. The covenant includes legal rights to ensure that the cleanup protects future users of the property, the environment, and the integrity of the remedial actions, according to Ecology.
The Schmidts can work with Ecology to develop a cleanup action plan, either through a formal or voluntary process, Palmer said.
In its comments to the county, Ecology expressed “serious concerns” about high levels of contamination from metals including arsenic, lead, copper and zinc, all on the federal list of priority pollutants. These metals are known to be harmful to human health, plants and animals, Ecology said. The Red Shirt Mill is ranked at highest risk on Ecology’s Hazardous Site List.
The Red Shirt Mill processed ore from the nearby Red Shirt Mine in the 1930s and 1940s. The main tailings pile is approximately 1.5 acres and up to 5 feet deep, Ecology said in its comments.
Water must be tested
The Schmidts proposed using a well on the property for household water. Because the property is classified as a hazardous site, the water will have to be tested by Okanogan County Public Health for the metals outlined in the Red Shirt Mill Groundwater Compliance Monitoring Project to determine if contaminant levels are too high for the water to be potable, Palmer said.
Once other requirements have been satisfied, the new site plan will have to include an accurate depiction of the location and extent of contamination from historical mining activities, the building design and area, the ordinary high-water mark, and all areas of disturbance, Palmer said.
The 7.33-acre parcel is on Twisp Airport Road.