Harbor Island Site Fact Sheet - June 1995 | Region 10 | US EPA

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Harbor Island Site Fact Sheet - June 1995

Superfund Fact Sheet

June 1995

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) are working to protect public health and improve the environment in contaminated areas of Harbor Island. This fact sheet provides an overview of the various Superfund activities associated with the Harbor Island Superfund site.

Historical Overview

The Harbor Island Superfund site is located one mile south of downtown Seattle, in King County, Washington, where the Duwamish River enters Elliot Bay. Harbor Island was created in the early 1900's by filling over 400 acres of tidelands. It has been used by numerous commercial and industrial enterprises since that time. Major activities on the island have included: ship building, port and rail shipping, petroleum product storage and transfer, secondary lead smelting, lead fabrication and metal plating.

Harbor Island was placed on the National Priorities List as a Superfund site due to elevated lead concentrations in the soil, as well as elevated levels of other hazardous substances. Surface soil is contaminated with petroleum products, lead, arsenic and other metals. Contamination has also been found in the groundwater across the site.

What is Superfund?

In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which was amended in 1986 by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). These two laws, commonly known as Superfund, provide EPA with the authority and resources to investigate and clean up releases, or threatened releases, of hazardous substances.

Superfund authorizes EPA to take legal action to ensure that parties responsible for polluting soil or water clean up those areas. If the responsible parties do not or cannot clean up the sites, money can be spent from the "Superfund" to clean up the sites.

Once a site has been identified by EPA as needing attention under Superfund, it is placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). The site is then investigated and, if necessary, a cleanup program is implemented. If a site poses an immediate threat to public health or the environment, EPA has the authority under Superfund to address the situation quickly through a "removal action" that can occur before the overall site investigation is complete.

The Harbor Island Superfund Activities

EPA has divided the site into four areas called operable units to better control the cleanup process.

1. The Soil and Groundwater Unit
2. Lockheed Shipyard
3. Marine Sediments
4. Petroleum Tank Facility

1. The Soil and Groundwater Unit

The soil and groundwater unit includes the entire island, except for the Lockheed Shipyard and the marine sediments. Investigations conducted by EPA show extensive areas in the soil where lead and petroleum levels exceed cleanup goals. High levels of petroleum products were found in three different areas which total about 90,000 cubic yards. Other contaminants of concern in the soil include arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and chromium.

Petroleum products were also found floating on the groundwater at the Todd Shipyard facility. Groundwater at numerous locations on Harbor Island exceeds drinking water standards for hazardous substances. However, the groundwater is not currently used for drinking water and all water users on the island are serviced by the city of Seattle water system.
Since the water is not anticipated to be used for drinking water in the future, there is no danger of human health risk. However, cleanup goals for the protection of surface water quality at the shoreline are necessary because contaminated groundwater which enters the adjacent Duwamish River and Elliot Bay could negatively effect marine life living in these areas. Contaminants could also accumulate in exposed marine life and pose a threat to individuals consuming these organisms.

Record of Decision

In September 1993, EPA adopted a final cleanup plan for contamination of the soil and groundwater. The plan, called a Record of Decision (ROD), requires excavation and treatment by thermal desorption of the highly contaminated petroleum hot spot soil. This process removes contamination by heating the soil at low temperatures. The ROD also requires capping other soil contaminated above the cleanup goals, and off-site disposal of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Other elements of the cleanup plan include pumping and treating the petroleum products floating on the groundwater at the Todd Shipyard facility, and long-term monitoring of contaminant concentrations in the groundwater across the island.

2. Lockheed Shipyard

The Lockheed Shipyard facility occupies approximately 18.5 acres on the west side of Harbor Island and is adjacent to the West Waterway. Shipbuilding activities conducted on the facility since the mid-1930s included metal fabrication, pipefitting, electrical wiring, sandblasting and painting. The facility was used by Lockheed to build and refurbish ships from 1959 to 1986. An investigation of this facility conducted by Lockheed Martin indicates that soil containing petroleum, lead, and arsenic exceed the cleanup goals in several areas. Groundwater at the facility is also contaminated. However these contaminants are not currently at the shoreline. Groundwater will be monitored semi-annually for 30 years or until it has been determined that groundwater contaminants will not reach the shoreline in concentrations exceeding cleanup goals. Cleanup goals for these contaminants apply only at the shoreline.

Record of Decision

In June 1994, a ROD was signed to address the Lockheed Shipyard on Harbor Island. This ROD requires that the petroleum hot spot soil be excavated and treated by thermal desorption, capping other soil contaminated above the cleanup goals, and long-term monitoring of contaminant concentrations in the groundwater. Cleanup work will begin in mid-1995 and is expected to be completed in the fall of 1995.

3. Marine Sediments

EPA completed an investigation in January 1995, which indicates that extensive areas in the East and West Waterways, and to the north of Harbor Island exceed sediment cleanup criteria established by Ecology. Additional sampling was conducted in March of 1995 by a group of Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to determine if these contaminated areas can cause negative biological effects in marine life. This data will be used by EPA to determine which areas of contaminated sediment will require active cleanup. A proposed plan will then be developed and sent out for public comment. EPA intends to issue this proposed plan in the fall of 1995.

4. Petroleum Tank Facility

The initial investigation was conducted in the spring of 1993. Cleanup work at the three petroleum tank farms on Harbor Island (ARCO, Shell, and Texaco) is being overseen by Ecology.
Ecology expects to have the completed investigative report by the end of 1995. This report will be used to evaluate several potential cleanup solutions for the site, and a cleanup plan will be drafted for each tank farm. When cleanup plans are complete, the public will be notified and will have an opportunity to give Ecology comments.
The Shell property was purchased by GATX in December 1994. However, Shell will continue to conduct work at the site until the cleanup is considered final.

Effects of Arsenic and Lead on Human Health


Exposure to arsenic has been shown to increase a person's risk of developing cancer. Inhaling arsenic may increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Ingesting or swallowing arsenic may increase the risk of developing skin cancer as well as cancer in other parts of the body.

Lead in soil or dust can increase the level of lead in the blood above naturally occurring levels. Increase blood lead levels have been associated with increased blood pressure in adults. Lead exposure can also cause nerve, kidney, and blood cell damage, and may increase the risk of cancer.

For More Information

If you have any questions about this fact sheet, please contact one of the following people:

Keith Rose, EPA Project Manager
Phone: (206) 553-7721;
Email: rose.keith@epamail.epa.gov

Krista Rave, EPA Community Relations Coordinator
Phone: (206) 553-6686;
Email: rave.krista@epamail.epa.gov
or call EPA toll-free 1-800-424-4EPA

If you have questions about the Harbor Island Tank Farm Sites, please contact Marianne Deppman, Ecology's Public Involvement Specialist at (206) 649-7254.

For those with impaired hearing or speech, please contact EPA's telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) at (206) 553-1698. To ensure effective communication with everyone, additional services can be made available to persons with disabilities by contacting one of the numbers listed above.

Modificaitons on January 3, 2003: change the Point of Contact information.


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