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Earth Day: CD Faces Pollution From Gas Stations & Cleaners

For the most part, the Central District has only ever been two things:  an old growth forest and a residential neighborhood. Never having had a real industrial presence, you wouldn't expect to see too many issues with serious pollution or toxic cleanup. But a review of State Department of Ecology data shows that we've got our share of problems spread around the area.

The biggest culprits are from two sources: dry cleaners and gas stations or other fueling depots. State environmental rules require reporting and remediation whenever toxic or other volatile compounds end up in the ground, water, or air. That has resulted in 36 different reports filed in the last 10 years in various locations around the Central District and the northern part of Capitol Hill.

The good news is that most property owners appear to be very responsive when a problem is found. Of those 36 reported sites, 11 have already been cleaned up and another 15 are in the active stages of a remediation process. Another 5 are in various stages of analysis to determine the level of risk.

But a total of 5 different sites fall into a more worrisome category where a serious pollution problem has been discovered and analyzed, but where no concrete action is being taken to clean it up. And two of those 5 are given the second most serious pollution ranking by the state Department of Ecology.

 

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Those 5 sites are:

  • L&E French Cleaners at  - Given a ranking of 2 out of 5 (smaller is worse), the soil and groundwater of this property are contaminated with dry cleaning solvents which can cause liver and respiratory problems, birth defects, and possibly cancer.  Problems were first reported here in 1999, but no action has been taken yet to clean up the contamination.
  • Goodwill Property at  - Also given a ranking of 2, the large Goodwill property is contaminated with petroleum products, solvents, and heavy metals in both the soil and groundwater. The problem was first reported in 2001, and will be required to be cleaned up before any redevelopment of that campus.
  • Ralph's Concrete at . - Given a ranking of 3, several different parcels used by this company have been contaminated with petroleum products, solvents, and corrosives. First reported in 1998, it is still waiting for cleanup to begin.
TD Auto Body & Repair at . - Given a ranking of 3, the groundwater and soil of this property are contaminated with petroleum products, metals, and solvents. It was first reported in 2001. A1 Brake at - Given a ranking of 3, this property has contaminated soil and groundwater due to both petroleum products and solvents. It was waiting for cleanup since 2000.

Another seriously contaminated site is at Metal Laundry Inc at , which was given a ranking of 2 out of 5 due to petroleum product and solvent contamination of the soil and groundwater. Reported in 1999, it is listed as being under active remediation.

As for where else you might find a problem, just look for a gas station or dry cleaners. We found that the majority of each of those businesses in the area have appeared on the ecology reports at some time over the last ten years. Luckily, the majority are either resolved or on their way to becoming so.

And this is one area where you can make a difference by generally avoiding dry cleaning, and when you must get a garment professionally cleaned, look for one that doesn't use the toxic old PERC chemicals. CO2 is a popular new option that is available at some places around town.

Finally, based on what we've read in these ecology reports, we'd advise everyone to refrain from drinking any groundwater from anywhere in the city.

 
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