Contaminated soil concerns Ashland residents

Ashland, Ore. — Contaminated soil in an Ashland railroad yard has some nearby residents concerned.
Nothing has been done to clean it up in two decades but now, it’s being addressed.

In order to sell the 20-acre plot of land owned by Union Pacific, the soil needs to be removed. But residents who are calling the soil toxic are worried about how it will be transferred.

“It’s gonna be a lot of dirt,” observed Sue Carney, who has lived in Ashland for 32 years. She says the contaminated soil in the Ashland railroad yard has never changed.

“We’ve been talking about it in our neighborhood because I mean, I work right over there. I walk past this place every day and I live right over there, and so it’s a pretty big part of my work commute,” Carney said.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, elements like lead and arsenic were discovered in the soil back in the 1990s from earlier railroad operations. Now Union Pacific, who owns that land, is responsible for cleaning it up before selling it.

“In 2006 there was a proposal by Union Pacific to use trucks to haul out contaminated soil,” explained DEQ Project Manager Greg Aitkin. “The current plan proposes to use rail cars.”

But even though rail cars are being used to take the contaminated soil out, Carney is still concerned about breathing in dangerous particles.

“Whatever’s going in and out of here by train is definitely gonna be dusting up the air and especially I guess they’re planning on doing it in June,” Carney said.

Union Pacific says it plans to cover the rail cars with a tarp for the project that will span from spring of this year until 2019 .

Carney is thankful for the cleanup and hopes the process is smooth and safe.

“We’re very happy that they’ve come to clean up. The question is just, what kind of impact is it gonna have on our lives over the summer, and can they keep this stuff, toned down so we’re not breathing it,” Carney said.

Union Pacific has agreed to inform the community of any possible heavy equipment noise and traffic during the cleanup.

The project schedule will be posted on the city’s website, https://www.ashland.or.us/SectionIndex.asp?SectionID=481&Print=True

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