by Dan Richardson

Hamilton Cleanup Plan - SPOKANE -- For years, companies like the American Tar Company conducted operations from Spokane's Hamilton Street Bridge site, and for years industrial pollutants seeped into the ground.

Ecological investigators found toxic compounds - specifically, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons - as deep as 80 feet over a three-acre area, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

Now, Ecology officials have drawn up a proposed legal plan to clean up the pollutants. Avista Corp. and Burlington Northern and Sante Fe Railway (BNSF) -- companies that owned the land leased to the other companies -- have also signed the plan, called a consent decree. The clean-up consent decree is available for public review and comment through July 25. Copies of the plan are available at the downtown Spokane public library and at Ecology's Spokane office, 4601 N. Monroe Street.

"Its important that people know what we're signing," says Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert.

The Hamilton site is near Brown Building Materials and the Spokane River. The Spokane Gas & amp; Fuel Co. (later changing its name) ran its manufactured gas plant there from the early 1900s, and the American Tar Company's processing facility was also located there making things like roofing tar and boat pitch, according to Ecology documents. In 1958, the fuel company merged with Washington Water Power Company, which later became Avista. BNSF, meanwhile, owned the property it leased to the tar company's processing facility until 1967.

The consent decree calls for Avista and BNSF to pay for about $1 million in remediation work, Gilbert says. The non-cleanup cleanup deal includes covering the contaminated soil with about two feet of clean dirt and gravel, planting native plants on the riverbank to prevent erosion into the Spokane, and long-term monitoring to make sure pollutants don't seep into nearby groundwater.

Time Moving Again - SPOKANE -- Doug Schwab has made his weekly climb of the 80 feet of stairs and ladders up Spokane's Riverfront Park Clock Tower for several years. It's a good thing he didn't have to set his watch by it: The clock, sometimes stuck for months, has kept spotty time.

Since the city spent some $31,000 in repairs in May, however -- and with some additional elbow grease from city maintenance workers -- the clock atop Spokane's cultural landmark keeps time. Of course, it still needs to be wound about once a week, taking 105 turns of the hand-crank, says Schwab, maintenance foreman for Riverfront Park. Schwab's the guy who makes those 105 crank-turns.

"I've learned a lot about clocks in the past couple of years," since hiring on with the city, says Schwab.

A 600-pound pendulum keeps the clock's gears turning in synchronous cycles. Problem was, a spring attached to the weight broke a few years ago, letting the clock tick-tock itself out of whack. Then the replacement one broke. And another.

In May, workers under contract replaced the observation decking, weatherproofing it, and also replaced the clock's rotting deck. In the process, workers found a pulley in the mechanism frozen up, apparently from the moisture, says Schwab.

With the leaks fixed, the pulley loosened and a good spring installed, the clock now ticks along accurately, Schwab says. "I'm hoping it will just keep going until I retire."

Lake City Water Shortage - COEUR d'ALENE -- For a city next to a lake, not to mention numerous snow-laden mountains, one would think water wouldn't be a problem. One would be right -- except that a pump motor on one of Coeur d'Alene's wells has burned out.

Now water officials are asking residents to conserve water voluntarily. Residents with even-numbered addresses should only water their lawns and gardens on even-numbered days; those with odd addresses on odd days, according to the city water department. For this weekend, July 13-14, water officials ask that no one water lawns at all, given the expected temperatures of 90 degrees plus.

"That's kind of the peak time," explains Jim Markley, the city's water superintendent.

Markley says the last time Coeur d'Alene residents faced water restrictions was in the early 1970s, when the system didn't produce the 27 million gallons a day it does now. With the one well motor burned out, the system can deliver just about 24.5 million gallons each day, says Markley. That's enough to meet critical needs like drinking and fire fighting, but heavy lawn-watering could stress the system.

Markley says he expects new parts to be installed in the failed motor by Wednesday, July 17.

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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