Thursday, April 2, 2015

From blighted old Parcel 7 to world fame

by Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

These days, downtown Tacoma along the Thea Foss Waterway hums with activity.

One of the most visible icons there is the cone-shaped tower of the Museum of Glass. It's an impressive sight ... but it wasn't always that way.

Cleanup a community effort

Parcel 7 in the 1990s ...
The property had been a polluted cleanup site known as Parcel 7. The museum's website features some interesting context and background to the effort that went into redeveloping it for the museum.

Our Toxics Cleanup Program worked with civic leaders and organizations to plan and carry out the cleanup.

A former property owner originally stored and sold coal fuel there. Later the company stored and sold petroleum products, which caused the bulk of the site's environmental problems.

The site had used both above-ground and underground storage tanks for storing the various petroleum products. Soils in various areas of the site were contaminated by light and heavy petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals. The same contamination was found in groundwater throughout the site.

From flawed to famous

... and the Museum of Glass today.
All but one of the tanks on the site had been removed before cleanup started in 1995. It was found during soil excavations.
"We actually got a more complete cleanup on the site than was originally envisioned by the (cleanup plan)," recalled cleanup site manager Marv Coleman. "Because it was decided that underground parking would be necessary to accommodate the expected visitors to the planned Museum of Glass, soils throughout the entire site were removed all the way down to groundwater ..."

The museum opened in 2002 after the cleanup was over (though groundwater monitoring continues). It attracts artists and visitors from throughout the world to Tacoma.

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