Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cleaning Up: Small sites, big impacts in Eastern WA

Large-scale environmental cleanups with big cranes -- and even bigger price tags -- capture a lot of public attention, especially in Washington's urban centers.

Used oil sometimes bubbled up inside Roby's Service.
But relatively small projects in sparsely populated rural areas can have significant positive impacts in smaller communities too.

That's why our Toxics Cleanup Program created the Eastern Washington Clean Sites InitiativeThe effort involves communities and other partners in shaping cleanup projects that will make a difference in local residents’ quality of life.

We use initiative funds to help clean up properties where the responsible party (land user, facility operator or property owner) can't be found or simply can’t afford to pay for cleanup.

The Eastern Washington Clean Sites Initiative includes about two dozen cleanup sites in 11 counties. Among those sites are an old mill property and some former gas stations.

An eyesore in Buena

One of those old gas stations is the old Roby's Service property in Buena, a small Yakima County community north of Toppenish. The location operated as a gas station and auto repair facility from the 1950s until about 2003.
Roby's was bordered by homes and a U.S. Post Office. 

Over the years, petroleum contamination was found in soil and groundwater coming from leaking underground storage tanks. Ecology dug up and removed the tanks and pipes in 2001.

But the abandoned structures languished. Used oil sometimes seeped up from underground through holes in the flooring. It was a general eyesore, located next to homes and the local U.S. Post Office, and the community wanted it gone.

Our cleanup staff in Ecology's Central Regional Office went to work with Yakima County's code enforcement personnel. In 2011, Ecology removed many site structures and concrete and pumped out a waste oil tank.

In 2012, crews dug up and removed the empty waste oil tank and the surrounding contaminated soil, and backfilled the pit.

Crews tear down the old Roby's Service structures in Buena.
About 2,500 tons of soil and 122 tons of concrete debris were taken from the site and disposed of properly. A compound that helps enhance breakdown of the remaining petroleum contamination was added to leftover soil.

Testing shows any residual soil contamination is not impacting groundwater beneath the site.

A new chapter

With the blighted structures gone, there's new hope for the former Roby's site. It's being removed from our Hazardous Sites List, which means we consider it to be cleaned up.

And a young entrepreneur who bought the property is talking about using it to develop a park or a youth center.

It's just one more example of how environmental cleanup can spark development and improve a community's quality of life.

By Seth Preston, Toxics Cleanup Program communications manager

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