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Next Phase of Clean-up Planned for Commencement Bay

Release Date: 8/10/2000
Contact Information: Peter Contreras
(206) 553-6708 or 800-424-4372

August 10, 2000 - - - - - - - - - 99-039

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized plans to clean up 90% of the contaminated sediments remaining in the industrial tideflats area of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay. The sediment cleanup project is part of the Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Superfund cleanup led by EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology.

The proposal includes dredging approximately 1.8 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the Thea Foss, Wheeler Osgood and Hylebos Waterways. The sediments, enough to fill the Tacoma Dome twice over, will be disposed of in two disposal sites in the Commencement Bay area and an upland landfill.

The plan ensures the cleanup actions do not contribute to loss of habitat and includes specific habitat criteria to be met for all mitigation plans. The Commencement Bay area is habitat for some species listed under the endangered species act, including Puget Sound chinook salmon and bull trout.

“This is a major step toward a healthy ecosystem,” said Chuck Findley, Acting Regional Administrator for the EPA in Seattle. “Two of the six contaminated waterways have already been cleaned up. It is our intent that cleanup will be under way in these three areas in 2002.”

The next step is for EPA to negotiate legal agreements with the companies involved in the cleanup. The settlement agreements will outline the schedule for work and responsibilities of the parties who will perform the cleanup under EPA’s oversight.

Since the late 1800's a multitude of industrial uses, including shipbuilding, oil refining and chemical manufacture and storage have caused widespread hazardous waste contamination of the soil and nearshore sediments. Many of the contaminants have impacted marine life and disrupted the ecological food chain of the area. The goal of the cleanup is to bring back a healthy bay and marine ecosystem. In 1989, EPA determined that six of the eight Commencement Bay waterways would require cleanup under Superfund. St. Paul and Sitcum waterways have been cleaned up, three more are addressed in this plan, and EPA will propose a cleanup plan for the remaining waterway, Middle Waterway, in fall 2000.

“A key component in cleaning up these waterways is to control additional pollution,” said Findley. “The State Department of Ecology has done a tremendous job of tracking down those sources. Ninety-five percent of the listed sources of pollution are now under control.”

A full description of the cleanup plan and bay-wide sediment disposal can be found in an EPA document entitled “Explanation of Significant Differences.” This document is available for review at the Tacoma Main Public Library (Northwest Room, 1102 Tacoma Avenue South), by appointment at the office of Citizens for a Healthy Bay (917 Pacific Avenue, Suite 406, 253-383-2429) or at the EPA Records Center EPA in Seattle(7th floor, 1200 Sixth Avenue.)

It may also be viewed at the follwoing Web Sites:

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