Community Post

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.

Those 5 sites are:

  • L&E French Cleaners at 2800 E. Madison – 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 1400 S. Lane – 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 1511 Rainier Ave S. – 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 1209 E. Fir St. – 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 1520 10th Ave – 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 614 12th Ave, 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.

0 thoughts on “Earth Day: CD Faces Pollution From Gas Stations & Cleaners

  1. LOL

    Great work, as usual…always appreciated. Only drink from your gutter downspouts, people!

  2. Just FYI. there is a great new eco-friendly dry cleaners on 14th between pike and pine called Blue Sky Cleaners. I also wounder what the status for the Cherry St. Cleaners on 25th and Cherry is.

  3. The ecology department lists the 25th & Cherry cleaners as verified to be contaminated with solvents in both the soil and groundwater. It’s also listed as having a remediation program in progress since October of last year.

  4. Good information to know.
    Any chance that the former car wash at 23rd Ave E and Pike might get any help any time soon? I followed your call to action to pester the city graffiti department and e-mailed the *new* property owner to no change so far. The property has a growing garbage pile AND a huge hole in the chain link fence now. Frustrating!

  5. this is actually a recurring theme with businesses that are shuttered. current forums, like EPCPC and District Council meetings, do not address important issues like these.

    they are large scale problems, but other than “pestering” depts, who can you call? too bad we don’t have a district representative on the city council we could pester as well.

  6. Why are these sites sitting for more than 10 years with no cleanup? Are there laws governing clean up and timetables? Who enforces? What do we need to do? Does contaminated groundwater seep into our community gardens, our own home gardens? It must end up in the rivers, lakes, streams and Puget Sound at some point, too.

  7. I’d suggest that you (that’s a global you, anyone out there) contact Tenaya, the president of the Central Area District Council, and ask that this issue be put on the next agenda. Same to whoever is in charge of the EPCP meetings. It would be great to have some solutions or a start of a solution to suggest.

    Attending to the shuttered and grotty properties is the same as attending to the broken window that soon becomes several broken windows and there goes the neighborhood.

    Attending to toxic wastes is just good common sense, but there’s a cost, usually big, so the question is who will pay for it? When a property comes up for development, the process usually gets going. If nothing developmentally is happening, apparently there’s no push for cleanup. So maybe we have to be the push.

  8. We’ve got a call into Ecology to try to get some answers to these questions and more – we’ll do an update once we’ve made a connection there

  9. In the back of this property there are huge piles of garbage. Everytime I frequent the Twilight I have to look at it. I can’t understand how it is allowed to continue.