Old smelter is worth its weight in gold

Tacoma, WA TheNewsTribune.com

When Port of Tacoma officials bought the defunct Kaiser Aluminum smelter in 2003, they knew they’d have to clean up tons of hazardous and solid waste.

But port staff members said earning money from one of the major phases of the cleanup was a nice surprise.

In the two years since it bought the property, the port has removed 6,000 pounds of waste and recycled 550,000 pounds of transformer oil from the plant’s electrical system. But the real work started in April, when workers began dismantling 400 “reduction cells� that the plant used to turn alumina ore into aluminum metal.

This phase of the cleanup – the first of two phases – will generate between 20 million and 40 million pounds of solid and hazardous waste. The hazardous waste includes contaminants such as cyanide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and will be sent to a federally approved landfill.

The solid waste, including thousands of pounds of steel, aluminum and copper from the reduction cells, has proved more valuable than your average garbage.

The port initially estimated the cost of this part of the cleanup at $6.7 million. But by selling the all that scrap metal, the port will net $909,000.

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