L-Bar Site
Hwy 395, Chewelah, WA 99109

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SITE BACKGROUND

The L-Bar Site includes about 67 acres of industrial and agricultural land immediately south of the Colville River. The primary land use was commercial and industrial; one parcel was used for agricultural purposes. The facility abuts an active aggregate operation, White Stone Calcium, Inc., which markets crushed marble, granite and quartzite materials.

Magnesite ore from local mines was processed at the facility for several decades by Northwest Magnesite. Magnesite processing ended in 1967. An approximately 17-acre pile of process residues up to 30 feet thick was left behind. This pile is not a focus of the current cleanup.

In the mid-1970s, a metal recovery facility, L-Bar Products, started operating on the property. The operation involved processing and recovering magnesium metal from a magnesium-processing byproduct called flux bar. The flux bar mostly came from a magnesium smelter in Addy, Washington, which was operated by Northwest Alloys, an Alcoa subsidiary. Flux bar contains various metal salts, magnesium metal, and nitrogen-based compounds that can degrade over time into ammonia. Small hot spots and fires sometimes occurred in the unprocessed flux bar stockpiles as the magnesium degraded.
 
The magnesium recovery process involved crushing raw flux bar and screening the crushed materials to recover metallic magnesium granules. Then flux bar residue remained. L-Bar further processed the residue for agronomic applications; however, the output exceeded demand. Large stockpiles of flux bar residue gradually built up at the site. Residual ammonia, chloride and other contaminants leached from the piles. 

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) issued several Enforcement Orders and penalties to L-Bar Products for violations of air, water quality, and dangerous waste regulations while the plant operated. Some emergency actions and plant rehabilitations were taken to address the orders. When the plant closed in 1991, an estimated 100,000+ tons of flux bar and its residues were left on the site.


CONTAMINATION

Past operating practices and improper storage of flux bar and its residues caused soil, groundwater, and surface water contamination, including:


CLEANUP

In 1995, Ecology entered into an Agreed Order with Northwest Alloys to complete a remedial investigation and feasibility study to define the full extent of contamination at the site and identify cleanup options. Following that, a 2000 Agreed Order required Northwest Alloys to complete the Cleanup Action Plan Ecology prepared.
 
Cleanup actions included:
  • Removing flux bar, flux bar residue, and contaminated soil and disposing of it off-site 
  • Improving surface water drainage controls 
  • Allowing contaminants in soil and shallow groundwater to dissipate naturally over time
  • Long-term monitoring 
Routine monitoring includes 12 shallow monitoring wells, 1 production well, 2 surface water drainage ditch stations, and 2 monitoring stations on the Colville River. Cleanup levels have not yet been met, but groundwater and surface water quality have improved.  

A Restrictive Covenant was placed on the property in 2001. The covenant limits ways the land may be used. If the site is purchased or developed, the covenant prevents property use that might expose hazardous materials that remain on-site or adversely affect contaminant movement. It helps protect the integrity of the remedial action.

Periodic Reviews

Periodic reviews are conducted every five years after cleanup begins at a site, as required by the Model Toxics Control Act. The reviews evaluate site conditions after initial cleanup actions are complete, and help ensure protection of human health and the environment.  
 
In April 2012, Ecology completed the first five-year periodic review and recommended: 
  • Continuing groundwater and surface water monitoring
  • Establishing a lower detection level for thallium analysis
  • Further investigating areas of the site to determine if contamination sources are still present
  • Removing additional contaminants, if found
In August 2019, we completed the second periodic review and recommended no further cleanup actions, as people and the environment will continue to be protected as long as the restrictive covenant remains in place and is followed. Ground and surface water monitoring will continue to track cleanup progress.

The next review is scheduled for 2023.


 

Map showing site location as Stevens County, WA SITE INFORMATION

Map

View Electronic Documents

Cleanup Site Details Report

Facility Site ID: # 762

Cleanup Site ID: 88

Location:
Chewelah, Stevens County

Status: Construction Complete-Performance Monitoring   Get definitions of Status terminology

Contacts:
Charles Gruenenfelder
Site Manager
(509) 329-3439

Erika Beresovoy
Public Involvement Coordinator
(509) 329-3546


Document Repositories:

Eastern Regional Office
N 4601 Monroe St
Spokane, 99205-1265
(509)329-3415