Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cleaning Up: Tacoma park once a longtime mess

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

For years, American Plating operated as an electroplating facility on the eastern bank of Tacoma's Thea Foss Waterway ... and released toxic chemicals into the waterway and on land.

The American Plating site on the Thea Foss before cleanup.
The company shut down and filed for bankruptcy in 1986. It left behind a stew of heavy metals such as cadmium, copper, lead, and nickel, as well as contamination from cyanide and vinyl chloride.

Ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to remove all hazardous materials from the 1.5-acre site. But then the facility and its legal contamination sat abandoned.

A new beginning

Cleanup in progress.
In 2002, Ecology took on the site at 2110 East D St. In 2003, crews demolished the buildings, took 18,000 gallons of water out of a concrete sump, removed the sump, and started cleaning up contaminated soil.

But there wasn't enough money to finish the work.

Late that year, the Foss Waterway Development Authority and Ecology signed a purchase agreement for the site. However, it took years to secure funding for the remaining environmental work.

Funding was obtained in 2011 and cleanup restarted. The Foss Waterway Development Authority removed trash, waste metal, asphalt, and contaminated soil. It also capped exposed areas with clean soil.

The float at Waterway Park.

The site's future

The development authority has started shaping the site -- now known as Waterway Park -- for use by local residents with non-motorized watercraft, like canoes and kayaks. A float is available for them.

Ecology wants to remove the site from the state's Hazardous Site List and is asking for public comments on that proposal through March 20. See Ecology's American Plating webpage for more information.

The development authority plans to seek funds to keep developing the park and has leased a portion of it to a canoe club.
Taking in some sunshine at Waterway Park ...

The organization, under its agreement with Ecology, must maintain groundwater monitoring wells at the site and preserve the soil caps that are now in place.

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