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Plans to discuss Union Pacific property cleanup in Ashland postponed

Plans to discuss the cleanup of hazardous materials at Union Pacific’s property in Ashland have been postponed until next month.

The Ashland City Council was slated to hear an update on the cleanup of railroad-owned land within the city at its regular meeting on Sept. 15, but the issue has been pushed back until Oct. 6.

Mayor John Stromberg expressed his opinion last week that Union Pacific’s plan to perform a partial cleanup of more than 20 acres of land contaminated with hazardous waste is not in the city’s best interest, and that an alternative plan that takes into account community concerns would be a good alternative to the partial cleanup.

The U.S. Department of Environmental Quality has found that Union Pacific's partial cleanup would satisfy state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations for residential property, but only if some restrictions remained in place. Union Pacific is currently in voluntary cleanup status with the DEQ and, should the company submit a valid cleanup proposal meeting DEQ guidelines and file for an excavation permit with the city, the railroad giant would be in compliance and could begin the partial cleanup of the site.

Mayor Stromberg has welcomed public input as to what the preferred cleanup plan would entail, and the Oct. 6 meeting will provide the community with information regarding the location and configuration of the Union Pacific property, where pollutants are present on the land, and what would be included in both the full-site cleanup and the partial cleanup currently planned.

Representatives from Union Pacific as well as the DEQ will make brief presentations at the meeting and answer questions from the City Council.

Alec Dickinson is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at AlecAlaska@gmail.com.