What: Public hearing for Occidental Chemical cleanup

When: 5pm (open house) and 6pm (public hearing) on Wednesday, March 8th

Where: The Center at Norpoint (4818 Nassau Ave NE, Tacoma)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/187450521741965/

It’s no secret that Commencement Bay carries a toxic legacy. While we have made real progress since the fish-less waters of a few decades ago, one polluted mess in particular serves as a reminder of how much further we must go in our pursuit of healthy waters (and healthy fish). That mess is the Occidental Chemical Corporation Pollution Plume.

Photo: Occidental Chemical site in operation; Credit: Occidental Chemical Corporation

For nearly 100 years, Occidental Chemical Corp. manufactured a slew of chemical solvents along the shores of the Hylebos Waterway in the Tacoma Tideflats. Although the company no longer operates here, they left behind a mind boggling amount of these hazardous chemicals in the soil and groundwater below the site, creating an enormous toxic plume.

The cleanup process for this underground pollution plume will be an immense undertaking. For starters, the size of the contamination is staggering. It spans an area the size of five CenturyLink Field stadiums and reaches a depth of 160 feet, or about as deep as the Tacoma Dome is tall. It contains a mixture of extremely dangerous pollutants, including metals, PCB’s and a particularly nasty group of volatile organic chemicals. Over time, these pollutants can release cancer-causing gas into our water and air. In fact, the pollution is so toxic that it is dissolving hard rock into jelly. If the pollution can dissolve rock into jelly, just imagine what it can do to the salmon, birds and other wildlife in Puget Sound.

 

Photo: Pollution plume from Occidental Chemical Corp.; Credit: WA Dept. of Ecology

 

The severity of Occidental Chemical’s pollution landed the site on the federal list of Superfund cleanups in the early 1980’s. Decades later, we are finally examining different cleanup options for the site. Right now, officials from the Washington State Department of Ecology are deciding on a cleanup plan. The plan they settle on will determine how much of Occidental’s mess gets removed and how much stays in the ground forever.

This stage of the cleanup is where things get tricky. Historically, the parties responsible for the pollution on Superfund sites help foot the bill for cleanup costs. However, Occidental Chemical wants to pay as little as possible for the cleanup and walk away from their toxic mess with the vast majority of the pollution remaining in the ground. This is absolutely unacceptable – Tacoma and Puget Sound deserve better. We cannot afford to put the profits of polluters above the health and safety of our environment and fish. That’s where you come in.

The Department of Ecology is holding a public hearing on Wednesday, March 8th, which will be our best chance to speak out and demand the strongest possible cleanup plan from Occidental Chemical Corporation. Tell your friends and show up for the health of your fish and local waters!

What: Public hearing for Occidental Chemical cleanup

When: 5pm (open house) and 6pm (public hearing) on Wednesday, March 8th

Where: The Center at Norpoint (4818 Nassau Ave NE, Tacoma)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/187450521741965/

If you can’t attend, you can still help by submitting public comments. Send your comments urging the strongest cleanup possible to:

Kerry Graber, Site Manager

Washington State Department of Ecology

PO Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775

Kerry.graber@ecy.wa.gov

For information regarding the cleanup of the Occidental Chemical site, visit our website at http://www.healthybay.org/occidental-chemical-cleanup-site/

With questions or to receive updates on this issue, email Ryan Cruz at rcruz@healthybay.org

About Citizens for a Healthy Bay

Citizens for a Healthy Bay engages people to clean up, restore and protect Commencement Bay, its surrounding waters and natural habitat. We have been involved in the Occidental cleanup process for nearly two decades. As the local clean water leader, we will continue bringing people together to achieve a clean and healthy Commencement Bay that benefits both our community and the surrounding ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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