By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The only site currently under consideration for a future city wastewater treatment plant might be too contaminated to use.

City officials said this week they are investigating just how far the contamination on the old mill site has spread. The city wont know the extent of the contamination until shortly before the land is purchased.

Yes, we are hesitant to buy it right now because we dont know what the full extent of the contamination and the remediation, City Manager Dave Wells said.

The McNamara and Peepe property, located behind Safeway on Highway 101, is up for grabs in a tax-default sale, and is the preferred location.

Wells said that although he believes the contamination is significant he didnt believe it could not be cleaned up.

Theres no indication it is site-wide and horrible, Wells said.

The contamination of the property is just the latest wrinkle in what is proving to be a complicated process, as the city moves toward expanding its wastewater treatment plant.

The plant must be expanded, because several years ago, it was found to be dumping untreated pollutants into the bay and was operating beyond capacity.

Just last week, the Regional Water Quality Control Board decided to allow Crescent City to continue to operate the existing treatment plant without racking up new violations while the new one is being designed and built.

The Regional Water Board approved modifications to our cease-and-desist order, and adopted our timeline for design and construction of our new treatment plant, said Wells.

On Feb. 27 1997, the existing treatment plant, located in Beachfront Park, was issued a cease-and-desist order because it was operating over capacity and had violations of discharge requirements. The order was rescinded in September 2000 and a less stringent order was put in place, allowing the plant to operate while progress was made on a new plant.

Tom Dunbar of the Regional Control Board said moving the preferred site for the new plant could pose a problem.

My impression was the city was hesitant to make a purchase of the McNamara and Peepe property because of the contamination, said Dunbar last week. The time schedule we agreed upon hinges on them purchasing that site.

According to Wells, the control board has shown flexibility in the past and the city wanted to make the agency aware of any potential problems with the site.

We arent going to get all the information we need until one month before the acquisition ... Were cramming two important dates close to each other, Wells said.

The amended cease-and-desist order places the purchase date for the property at Sept.1 2003. Design of the plant is scheduled to be completed Aug. 1, 2005.