Fairchild Semiconductor Case Study
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Last Updated July 2000
Mountain View, California
Computer manufacturing facility with extensive solvent contamination
New state-of-the-art building for Netscape Communications, Inc.
Reuse of highly-valued property resulting in local jobs, income, and spending
Netscape Communications’ newest office campus, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is a park-like space complete with cascading fountains, lush expanses of green, and easy access to a nearby commuter rail. The most remarkable thing about the campus home to over 1,800 programmers, marketers, and testers is that it is located on the former Fairchild Semiconductor Superfund site. What follows is the story of how this property was redeveloped, and of the economic impacts and environmental and social benefits that resulted.
Site SnapshotSilicon Valley has become one of our nation’s prime real estate areas. In the late 1960s, one property in the valley, now known as the Fairchild Semiconductor Superfund site, was occupied by over a dozen high-tech firms that manufactured chips, motherboards, and circuits for the emerging computer industry. To maintain ultra-clean conditions and, as a part of their manufacturing process, these companies used hundreds of gallons of solvents daily. The majority of these chemicals were stored in underground tanks and distributed through a below-ground network of pipes.
Although the solvents played a key role in maintaining the immaculate conditions needed for hi-tech manufacturing, they levied a heavy toll on the environment. As time passed, several companies that occupied the premises accidentally spilled hundreds of gallons of solvents into the soil and underlying groundwater. In 1981, routine water sampling by the California Department of Health Services showed that these spills had polluted the underlying aquifer. In 1985, EPA studied the area to determine the extent and severity of the contamination. The study area was called Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman (MEW), after the three roads that surround the property.
From Solvents...One of the companies that operated within the MEW study area was Fairchild Semiconductor. From 1968 to 1981, Fairchild Semiconductor made high-end computer products on a 56-acre portion of the property. By 1989, EPA had identified contaminated areas at the site. The Agency then oversaw the removal of tanks and contaminated soil, and the construction of soil and groundwater treatment systems on the property. In 1991, EPA added the site to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. The groundwater treatment systems continue to operate to this day.
...To Search EnginesDuring cleanup, EPA recognized that concern about cleanup liability could cloud prospects for redeveloping the property. To support the property’s reuse, EPA entered into a Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) with Keenan-Lovewell Ventures, a local real estate developer that planned to build office developments and lease them to interested companies. Under the PPA, Keenan-Lovewell Ventures agreed to contribute $200,000 to the cleanup and allow EPA access to the site to conduct further cleanup actions at any time. In return, EPA agreed not to sue the developer or any future property owner for cleanup liability. Keenan-Lovewell’s plans for new office developments in Silicon Valley sparked the interest of Netscape Communications, which leased 38.5 acres. Construction of the buildings was completed in 1998.
Community BenefitsCleanup and redevelopment of the site has brought highly-valued property back into productive use and has resulted in significant benefits. The companies now leasing the offices are providing jobs and income, which translates into significant spending in the local economy. These jobs support other businesses in the community, and provide a source of public revenue in the form of income and sales taxes. Also, area residents and businesses share in the pride and sense of accomplishment that has accompanied this redevelopment. Rather than a vacant and unproductive eyesore, the community now enjoys a beautifully landscaped office complex with lush greenery and water fountains.
Keys to SuccessOne of the keys to the successful redevelopment of the site was the Prospective Purchaser Agreement between EPA and Keenan-Lovewell Ventures. Another was EPA’s partnership with Schlumberger Technologies, Fairchild Semiconductor’s successor, during cleanup and redevelopment. Also, EPA provided two technical assistance grants (TAGs) to the community, at a value of $50,000 each. TAGs allow communities to hire technical advisors who help citizens understand and comment on site-related technical information.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Fairchild site, contact:
Alana Lee, Project Manager
U.S. EPA Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105