EPA ID# WAD980726301
EPA Region 10
Pierce County

6th and 9th Congressional District

Other Names: Well 12-A, American Surplus Sales, South Tacoma Swamp, South Tacoma Field, Tacoma City Landfill, Union Pacific Railroad Tunnel, Time Oil
Last Update: January, 2010

Hide details for Site DescriptionSite Description

The Commencement Bay, South Tacoma Channel site covers 2 square miles in Tacoma, Washington. The site includes three Project Areas being addressed as distinct sites: the Tacoma Municipal Landfill, South Tacoma Field, and Well 12A. The background for each problem area is described below.

Project Area #1: Tacoma Landfill, Pierce County, Tacoma, Washington

The Tacoma Landfill covers approximately 210 acres and is operated by the City of Tacoma. In 1960, the landfill began accepting municipal, industrial, construction, demolition, and bulk wastes. About 4 million tons of refuse have been deposited at the landfill, including wastes received in the 1960s and 1970s that have since been designated as hazardous substances. The landfill is surrounded by residential development and open land, with some commercial and industrial development. At Tacoma Landfill, landfill gas contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including methylene chloride and toluene. Groundwater is contaminated with VOCs and heavy metals. Private residential wells and a municipal wellfield are located downgradient of the landfill. Groundwater flows to the southwest toward Leach Creek, which lies approximately one quarter mile from the landfill. EPA's Five Year Review report, issued Sept 2008, indicates protectiveness of the remedy could not be made for several reasons. (1) New, lower surface water criteria were promulgated which drive the need for more surface water monitoring at lower detection levels to use in assessing protectiveness of the older cleanup levels (vinyl chloride, 1,2-dichloroethane). (2) The City and Tacoma/Pierce County Department of Health need to verify that residences down gradient from the Landfill were not using groundwater for drinking (the issue being that early warning values for arsenic are being exceeded as state health-based criteria are becoming lower). (3) The implications of elevated arseninc on human health and the groundwater to indoor air pathway need to be evaluated. As of this writing (January 2010), the City has addressed of the issues raised in collaboration with EPA, Washington Department of Ecology, the Tacoma/Pierce County Department of Health and with assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers. In February 2009, the City requested the third and final extension of the closure date for the Landfill - which is now December 31, 2014. (Note 3 such extensions are allowed under the Consent Decree and the previous one was granted February 25, 2005 & expired December 31, 2009.) The City and the agencies are also working on (1) long term management of the Groundwater Extraction & Treatment System (GETS) and (2) the preliminary steps of final Landfill closure.

Project Area #2: Well 12A, Pierce County, Tacoma, Washington

Well 12A is one of 13 wells used by the city of Tacoma to meet peak summer and emergency water demands. The well was taken out of operation by the City when it was found to be contaminated, but has been operating since July 1983 with five air-stripping towers. Investigations by EPA found the source of contamination to be centered on properties owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad and the Time Oil Company. A waste oil and solvent recycler had previously operated on the properties from approximately the 1920s until the 1960s. A Groundwater Extraction and Treatment System (GETS) was installed in November 1988. Five additional GETS wells were installed in August 1993. During construction of a Soil Vapor Extraction System (SVES) in August 1993, approximately 5,000 cubic yards of waste sludge was removed and 37,000 pounds of solvent was recovered by the vapor extraction system at the time of shut down in May 1997. As of September 1998, the GETS has removed 13,428 pounds of volatile organic compounds from treated ground water. The GETS is not meeting the cleanup criteria set forth in the 1985 Record of Decision. A remedial enhancement and optimization project is being conducted to determine if the groundwater extraction and soil vapor extraction systems can be enhanced to addressed NAPL at the site or if a different treatment technology would be more appropriate. Field work for the optimization project was completed in 2002 and the resulted in recommendations to analyze the capture zone. Capture zone analysis was completed in 2005 and those data are being evaluated to improve the system.

Project Area #3: South Tacoma Field, Pierce County, Tacoma, Washington

The South Tacoma Field comprises 260 acres of land at the edge of an industrial area in Tacoma, Washington. Historically, the site was used by Burlington Northern Railroad for rail car manufacturing, repair and maintenance from 1892 to 1974. At that same time, iron and brass foundries operated on-site and produced various rail car parts. The swamp area of the site was used as a dump for foundry, construction and domestic wastes. In the north end, Tacoma City Light has operated since 1953 and previously stored and maintained transformers. Additionally, Tacoma Public Works has discharged city stormwater from two outfall locations on the west side of the site since 1950. In September 2008, EPA issued the 2nd Five Year Review Report for this project area. Protectiveness was not established because upgrades are needed to prevent public access to capped areas and groundwater monitoring needs to be optimized.

Site Responsibility: This site has been addressed through municipal and potentially responsible parties' actions.

NPL Listing HistoryDates
Proposed Date:12/30/1982
Removed Date:
Withdrawal Date:
Final Date:09/08/1983
Deleted Date:

Hide details for Threats and ContaminantsThreats and Contaminants

Media Affected: Soil & Sludges, Groundwater
Project Area #1: Tacoma Landfill - Soil is contaminated with VOCs, heavy metals, and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Groundwater is contaminated with VOCs and heavy metals. The landfill generates gases containing low concentrations of VOCs and methane.

Project Area #2: Well 12A - Bursting drums of waste solvents and poor operation practices lead to the contamination of the groundwater and soil with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Soil is also contaminated with lead.

Project Area #3: South Tacoma Field - These past activities caused soil contamination throughout the site and localized groundwater contamination. Lead, arsenic, copper, and PCBs were found in soil. VOCs and petroleum hydrocarbons were identified in groundwater in the location of old underground storage tanks.

Hide details for Cleanup ProgressCleanup Progress

Project Area #1- Tacoma Landfill: In March, 1988, EPA selected the cleanup remedy for the landfill. The City of Tacoma, pursuant to a Consent Decree with EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology, completed construction of an impermeable landfill cap over the refuse area, a landfill gas management system, and two groundwater pump and treat systems. Operation of the groundwater pump and treat systems are resulting in improved groundwater quality between the landfill and Leach Creek. Management of the gas management system is successfully controlling the migration of landfill gases. Since the beginning of remedial construction, EPA has issued three Five-Year Review Reports which assess continued protectiveness of the selected remedial actions. The most recent of these reports was issued in September 2008 (see notes in general description, above). Also pursuant to a the Consent Decree, EPA and Ecology have thrice approved requests from the City to continue landfill operations in the Central Area of the site, which is now required to close December 31, 2014. EPA issued the third and final authorization to continue landfill operations on December 21. 2009. As noted above, the agencies will continue working on on improvements to long term management of the groundwater & gas management systems as well as land use and institutional control plans for the long term. The current contact for this Project Area is Kris Flint.

Project Area #2 - Well 12A: In 1981, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in Well 12A. In 1983, EPA began pumping and treating the water in Well 12A by air stripping. In 1985, EPA selected a final remedy for the Project Area that included excavation of contaminated soil and groundwater treatment. The Burlington Northern Railroad company right-of-way adjacent to the Time Oil facility was identified by EPA as a source of contamination to Well 12A. In 1986, under a Consent Order, Burlington Northern excavated approximately 1,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil and disposed of it in a federally-approved facility. In 1988, a groundwater extraction and treatment system was installed to pump and treat contaminated groundwater near the source on the Time Oil property. The initial system consisted of a single groundwater extraction well and in 1995 four additional extraction wells were added to the system. The groundwater extraction and treatment system continues to operate today. In 1993, EPA installed a soil vapor extraction (SVE) system on the contaminated Time Oil property. During construction of the SVE system, approximately 5,000 cubic yards of waste sludge from the oil recycling operations were excavated. The SVE system removed approximately 54 thousand pounds of VOCs and was shut down in 1997. In 2004/2005 the EPA advanced wells and collected soil samples and groundwater samples as part of a capture zone analysis. Oily product was identified in some soil samples. The study concluded that the current groundwater extraction and treatment system is not entirely capturing the contamination and that a significant source of contamination remains on the Time Oil property. Further, this contamination continues to be drawn toward the public drinking supply wellfield. Since the beginning of remedial construction, EPA has issued three Five-Year Review Reports which assess continued protectiveness of the selected remedial actions. The most recent of these reports was issued in September 2008 with a finding that the existing remedy for the site is not protective. EPA is currently working on a ROD Amendment for the site that will require addition contaminant source reduction near the Time Oil property to reduce future impacts to groundwater contamination from the site. The current contact for this Project Area is Kira Lynch.

Project Area #3: South Tacoma Field - Two remedial investigations were completed under a Consent Order by the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for this Project Area. EPA selected the cleanup remedy in 1994. According to that selected cleanup remedy, the following actions have occurred. Soils contaminated with PCBs above 50 ppm were excavated and incinerated off site. Soils from the Tacoma City Light property that were contaminated with PCBs above 10 ppm but below 50 ppm were transported to a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility. Soils in the old Burlington Northern Railyard that were contaminated with PCBs below 50 ppm were excavated, consolidated and capped in place. Soils contaminated with lead above 18,000 ppm were stabilized with Portland cement, consolidated, and capped. Soils with lead contamination below 18,000 ppm, but above 1,000 ppm were capped. Institutional controls restricting land use will be implemented on the properties as part of redevelopment. The groundwater contamination will be monitored for natural attenuation. The original remedy, air sparging and vapor extraction was determined to be unnecessary for the contaminant levels currently being seen at the site. This groundwater decision was documented in an Explanation of Significant Differences in August, 1999. The PRPs, under a Consent Decree, began design activities in 1997 and cleanup in 1998. The area was vegetated in spring of 1999. In June 2003, EPA issued the first Five-Year Review Report for this Project Area and determined that the selected remedies and controls remained protective. In February 2005, EPA issued a Final Closeout Report for STF Soils and began the process of partially deleting the site (i.e., soils only) from the NPL. Final Notice of Deletion (Partial/Soil) was issued in June 2005. The second Five Year Review Report for this work unit was issued in September 2008 (see notes in general description, above). The current contact for this Project Area is Kris Flint.

Hide details for Regional ContactsRegional Contacts

PHONE NUMBER:206-553-8155

Kira Lynch (Well 12A)
PHONE NUMBER:206-553-6919

Caryn Klaff
Information pertaining to this site is housed at the following location(s):
Tacoma Public Library (Administrative Records)
1102 Tacoma Avenue South
Northwest Room
Tacoma, WA 98402

Citizens for a Healthy Bay (Selected Documents)
917 Pacific Avenue, Suite 406
Tacoma, WA 98402

EPA Region 10 Superfund Records Center (Administrative Records)
1200 Sixth Avenue, ECL-076
Seattle, WA 98101