Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park
USA - 2010
Remediation Project Transforms Hazardous Site into Job, Revenue Generator
A partnership between Alcoa and federal, state, and local governments quickly transformed a former aluminum smelter and Superfund site in Troutdale, Oregon (USA), into an industrial park that has the long-term potential to add almost five times more jobs than were lost and generate millions in annual local taxes.
FedEx Ground, the unit of FedEx Corporation that provides cost-effective ground shipping to the U.S. and Canada, will be the first tenant at the new Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park when it opens a 41,341-square-meter (445,000-square-foot) distribution facility—one of the largest in the FedEx Ground network—in mid-2010. The center will employ more than 500 people.
An additional 10 sites are available in the 280-hectare (693-acre) industrial park. Once all are developed, the site’s overall employment could reach 2,500. That’s almost five times the 530 jobs lost when the smelter that originally occupied the site closed in 2000.
“Because of Alcoa’s collaboration and cooperation in developing the site, this economic boost to our city and region materialized,” said Jim Kight, mayor of Troutdale, which is located 18 miles east of Portland, Oregon. “Alcoa met head-on the obligation of cleaning up a contaminated site it had acquired and took the stewardship of its property very seriously by engaging with government to provide an opportunity for redevelopment rather than letting the property languish.”
The Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park story began in the 1940s, when Alcoa built a smelter for the U.S. government during World War II. After the war, Reynolds Aluminum purchased the smelter from the government and operated it until 2000, when Alcoa acquired the smelter as part of its acquisition of Reynolds. Production inefficiencies and high capital costs to bring the facility up to Alcoa’s standards forced curtailment of operations.
In 1994 when the smelter was still owned by Reynolds, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the smelter and surrounding property a Superfund site due to the spent pot lining, carbon, fluoride, and other hazardous substances that had been landfilled on the site before current disposal laws. While the remedial investigation, feasibility study, and some remediation work on these legacy issues had been completed before Alcoa’s acquisition of the site, significant work remained.
In 2002, Alcoa decided to permanently curtail the smelter and began evaluating options for the site. One viable alternative was to consolidate all of the remediation waste to a central landfill and cap it. The concern was that this would have rendered a significant portion of the site, which had great redevelopment potential due to its location near major waterways, highways, and Portland’s airport and port facilities, largely unusable and undevelopable.
Alcoa decided on a US$55 million decommissioning and remediation effort to maximize development of the property. After detailed risk assessments conducted in conjunction with government authorities, the company initiated remediation that would protect the health and safety of people and the environment.
Actions undertaken included removing contaminated soil, utilities, tanks, vessels, pipes, and building foundations, with the latter being removed down to eight feet below grade so they wouldn’t interfere with new foundations. Alcoa also reclaimed a 16-acre lake on the site, replanted original vegetation, cleared invasive species, addressed a groundwater issue, and installed a new pipeline system for stormwater management.
Engaging the Regulators
Key to the project’s success was the relationship Alcoa built with the state and federal environmental regulators. Because of transparent and open engagement, the site was remediated and ready for development in just four years after closure. Remediation projects for Superfund sites this large typically would take 10 or more years.
“Alcoa’s approach was to get the job done and handle the effort at the project level with technical personnel, which is a refreshing attitude in our business,” said Chip Humphrey, project manager for EPA Region 10. “Although we had our differences as we went through the process, we tended to resolve those in face-to-face meetings rather than writing letters and getting attorneys involved. When you have a good relationship, pretty soon you work as a team and things go smoothly. That epitomized this project. We all were working as a project team rather than as employees of our respective organizations.”
Mavis Kent, project manager and senior hydrogeologist with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, adds, “This project was unique to all the sites I’ve ever worked on, because at the very first meeting, Alcoa had assembled a wide array of stakeholders and expressed that it wanted to work closely and collaboratively with the regulators. That declaration set the tone, allowing everyone to feel like you could work through even some of the most disagreeable issues and come to conclusions that everyone could accept. It also raised the level of trust. When company representatives said they would do something, we believed them.”
In parallel with the remediation effort, Alcoa began evaluating potential buyers for the site. One entity the company identified as having the most potential for success was the Port of Portland. In December 2007, Alcoa sold the cleaned-up site to the port for $17.25 million—about one-third the remediation costs.
“If Alcoa had not committed to cleaning the site and selling it to us for redevelopment, it would have a rusty fence around it,” said Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland. “You can go to a lot of places in the United States where this is happening. Instead, we have new industrial property available for redevelopment in a region deficient in industrial property, as well as a new contributor to the tax base. This traces back to Alcoa demonstrating tremendous patience and commitment to engage with all stakeholders, particularly the regulators, to ensure the property was developed correctly. Alcoa is widely acknowledged in our community as having done the right thing.”
Today, the Troutdale Reynolds Industrial Park is the largest construction project in the state of Oregon. According to Mayor Kight, Troutdale will add US$300,000 annually to its tax coffers from the FedEx facility alone. Once the site is fully developed, total tax contributions to the city and other tax-collecting bodies should reach into the millions. The site is also spurring additional investment, with US$24 million in state funds earmarked for improvements to a nearby interstate interchange.
“I think other companies can learn three things from Alcoa’s approach to this project,” said Kent. “First, you have to own the problem and manage it proactively all the way through. Second, you must strive for trust and collaboration with the environmental regulators. Finally, you must have patience and persistence to work through the issues.”