News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

DEQ ready to sign off on Shaniko mill cleanup

The former Shaniko Lumber Mill in Lyons may soon be back in use after new owner Sierra Cascade Forest Products cleaned up decades worth of waste at the direction of DEQ.

On Jan. 26, DEQ Senior Project Manager Nancy Sawka confirmed to The Canyon Weekly the agency was ready to issue a certificate of completion within the next month.

This would conclude a prospective purchaser agreement entered into between DEQ and Sierra in 2021 that required the removal of contaminated soil, debris and other pollutants.

Sierra Operations Manager Adam Burton said the company is still working out next steps as “a lot has happened over the last few very unique years.” This included disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 wildfires, and Burton told The Canyon Weekly “plans currently are in flux.”

When Sierra agreed to purchase the property from Linn County in 2020, they estimated hiring around 100 employees after moving in and up to 200 more as operations expanded. 

The company also estimated a potential economic impact on the Lyons/Mill City region of between $5 million and $10 million.

The Scio-based company specializes in holiday decorations, scented pinecones and commercial Christmas trees.

The property in question, 40919 16th St., Lyons, was foreclosed on in 2018 by Linn County to settle a tax debt of $60,000 owed by then-owner Butte Development Co. The site was used since the 1930s for various agricultural and industrial purposes, and from 1993 to 2012 was a plywood mill operated by Butte and Shaniko Forest Products, according to DEQ records.

Linn County put the property up for auction and valued the 66 acres at $1.7 million. A high bid of $525,000 from Sierra was accepted by Linn County in May of 2020.

Sierra had conducted a site assessment in 2019 and was aware of potential contamination, and a more in-depth review was delayed until 2021 due to the Santiam Fire. 

A report that June confirmed the soil and groundwater were contaminated by petroleum products, heavy metals and other hazardous substances and would require remediation.

In the prospective purchaser agreement Sierra agreed to follow a remedial action work plan to clean the site and prevent future contamination.

PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc., of Portland, was hired for cleanup and in June of 2022 removed approximately 210 tons of soil and debris. A report that November by PBS  concluded “there is no residual risk to current or future occupants following this material’s removal” following excavation.

PBS also prepared a contaminated media management plan for Sierra to follow if contaminants are discovered in the future.

Additional steps were necessary such as an easement allowing DEQ to enter the property and conduct regular inspections every five years, which was granted in April of 2023.

On Dec. 1, 2023, DEQ announced it was prepared to certify cleanup and, following a public comment period that month, would finalize certification through an administrative order.

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