Commencement Bay-South Tacoma Channel | Region 10 | US EPA

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Commencement Bay-South Tacoma Channel

Contact Us
  • Tacoma Landfill and South Tacoma Field: Joe Wallace (, 206-553-4470
  • Well 12A: Christopher Cora (, 206-553-1478
  • Community Involvement: Kay Morrison (, 206-553-8321

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Site Summary

The Commencement Bay - South Tacoma Channel Superfund site covers 2 square miles in Tacoma, Washington. It was added to EPA's National Priorities List of polluted sites in 1983. The site includes three Project Areas being managed as distinct sites:

  • Tacoma Municipal Landfill
  • South Tacoma Field
  • Well 12A

South Tacoma Field: 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.

After the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Studies were completed, EPA published a Record of Decision (ROD) in 1999. The ROD called for:

  • excavation and disposal or chemical treatment of soils with the highest PCB, PAH and metals contamination;
  • capping areas with lower concentrations;
  • installation of monitoring wells to monitor groundwater quality;
  • implementation of land use restrictions prohibiting residential use, well drilling and soil excavation and restricting access.

In 2013, EPA conducted a statutory Five-Year Review of the status of the remedy and concluded that the remedy is operating as expected and the site remains protective of human health and the environment for the uses identified. Groundwater monitoring and other maintenance activities are ongoing at the site.

Tacoma Landfill: 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. 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.

The Landfill is no longer receiving waste and was closed in 2013. EPA’s 1988 Record of Decision closure objectives require:

  • capping wastes;
  • installing leachate collection, treatment, and permitted discharge;
  • installing landfill gas collection and monitoring systems;
  • conducting Operation and Maintenance activities including monitoring groundwater and surface water adjacent to the landfill.

In 2013, EPA conducted a statutory Five-Year Review of the status of the remedy and concluded that the remedy is operating as expected and the site remains protective of human health and the environment for the uses identified.

Well 12A: 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 when it was found to be contaminated, but has been operating since July 1983 with five air-stripping systems. 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 was installed in November 1988, and five additional systems were installed in August 1993. In 2012 EPA undertook additional remedial actions to treat VOC source areas at the Time Oil Facility. These included excavation, in-situ thermal treatment, soil vapor extraction, and enhanced anaerobic bioremediation.

Where to Review Site Documents

Some documents are available below. You can also review copies of all technical documents, fact sheets, and other documents related to the site at the following locations:

  • EPA Region 10 Superfund Records Center
    1200 Sixth Avenue, Suite 900
    Seattle, WA 98101
    206-553-4494 (please call for an appointment)

  • Tacoma Public Library Exit EPA disclaimer
    Northwest Room
    1102 Tacoma Avenue South
    Tacoma, WA 98402

Fact Sheets
Technical Documents


South Tacoma Field (Operable Unit 4):

Tacoma Landfill (Operable Units 5,6):

Well 12A (Operable Units 1,2,3):

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