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County looks for funds to finish cleanup

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By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

The first of the “dirty dozen” illegal dump sites in Pierce County, located at 22027 Connells Prairie Rd., is on the way to receiving a clean bill of health.

Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg appeared at a press conference at the site Thursday morning to discuss the progress of the clean-up.

“Of the original dirty dozen this one was the worst,” Ladenburg said. “This property owner was charging people to dump. This may take well over a year to get the funds to finish this job.”

Michael Bachmann owned the 52-acre property, according to Craig Swanson of the Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, and operated the site for nearly 10 years. The county first received a complaint against the property in February 1997.

The dump was finally shut down in April of 2002 after a lengthy foreclosure process. The county eventually took possession of the property in December 2002.

The county has spent $1.56 million to clean up the Connells Prairie site. That includes taking down outbuildings and removing 21,000 tons of household garbage, building debris, aluminum, steel and glass.

A mountain range of glass aluminum and steel waits to be removed.

Ladenburg said the glass is not recyclable and must be taken to another site to be disposed of properly.

“We took down the outbuildings in phase one,” Swanson said. “Phase two was the garbage in containers and the next phase will be the glass. There will probably be about four phases.”

The final phase will prepare the site for sale.

The original dirty dozen increased to 15 sites, reported by the executive's office.

According to Ladenburg, Bachmann resisted the county's action against his property. When authorities blocked an access to the dump, Bachmann put in another driveway.

Bachmann was charged with two gross misdemeanors for illegal dumping, two misdemeanors for zoning violations and a charge for maintaining a public nuisance.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge James Heller sentenced Bachmann to 2 1/2 years in jail with a $12,000 fine October 2002.

“Once we got the sentence it got the other peoples' attention,” Ladenburg said. “Most of them volunteered to clean up or at least help rather than go to jail.”

The county executive said he intends to ask the state and federal government to help pay for the final two phases of the clean-up.

“There were no ultra-hazardous materials,” Ladenburg said. “So it can be completely cleaned.”

The other sites around the county include a property owner in Gig Harbor who had nearly 400 cars and one in Roy with more than 100 cars.

“Although we're taking care of the dirty dozen,” Ladenburg said, “we want people to still call in if they see a violation.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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