Community Post

Earth Day Update: No action yet on top 5 polluted sites

On Earth Day last year we told you about the top five polluted sites in the neighborhood that are sitting without any plans in place for cleanup. We’ve followed up on that via public reports on the Ecology Department’s website, and have found that all five are in exactly the same position as a year ago: still polluted, some into the groundwater, and no plans for action.

Each site is ranked on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is the most hazardous and highest priority for cleanup and 5 is the least serious.

Here’s the details on each:

  • 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, it would have been cleaned up during the proposed redevelopment of that campus, but is now uncertain since the big project was cancelled after the economic downturn.
  • 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. First reported in 1993, there is no current plan for cleanup.
  • 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. 

There is some positive news on other sites outside that list of top-5:

  • The “Pearson Site” at 426 Broadway, former home to an auto shop, is now clean within acceptable limits, and may become home to a new mixed-use building if they get city approval for a rezone
  • The old Metal Laundry site at the corner of 12th & Cherry was cleaned up last year, in anticipation of a new Seattle U development that kicks off very soon.
  • The pollution from an old gas station at 12th & Jefferson has been better quantified and could get cleaned up if CHIP’s housing project there gets approved and funded.

We’ve attached three PDF documents above which list all of the polluted properties around the neighborhood.

The path towards getting these sites cleaned up is very uncertain. The Ecology department has a limited budget to pursue polluters in court, but that is often spent only on the sites that rank the highest on their statewide list. Although serious, none of the spots in the Central District rise high enough to get that kind of attention and funding.

As we reported last year, individual citizens can take the polluters to court at their own expense, and possibly recover their legal fees if the court rules in their favor. 

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