Site contamination

Digging at UW Tacoma (17K)


Past or present activities on UW properties have resulted in soil and/or groundwater contamination. EH&S Environmental Programs oversees compliance with environmental assessments, release reporting, and environmental remediation.

Former activities that could have caused environmental contamination include industrial activity; dry cleaning, leaking heating oil tanks, hydraulic lifts, underground storage tanks, and fuel storage or dispensing areas; improper hazardous materials storage and use; and the use of lead-based paint on building exteriors.

Two sites with known contamination are worth mentioning in more detail because of their unique environmental conditions and large sizes. The first site is the Montlake Landfill. The second site is on UW Tacoma campus.

Montlake Landfill

Soil profile at Montlake Landfill (29K) The Montlake Landfill is located on in the northeast quadrant of the Seattle campus. It is a unique area containing the Union Bay Natural Area, shorelines, wetlands and a riparian corridor. The Montlake Landfill (formerly called the Ravenna Landfill) was operated as a municipal landfill by the City of Seattle from 1926 until about 1966 and was closed in 1971.

EH&S reviews all projects that occur on the Montlake Landfill to ensure all workers are aware of methane gas, soil and groundwater contamination and landfill cap issues. The UW Executive Vice President established the Montlake Landfill Oversight Committee in 1999 to ensure appropriate use and protection of the site into perpetuity. The Montlake Committee has prepared an environmental guidance document to cover all operational and maintenance practices on the Montlake Landfill. See the Montlake Landfill Project Guide 2015.

The Montlake Committee has also prepared more detailed guidance on methane gas issues. See the Montlake Landfill Methane Action Plan for more information.

UW Tacoma contaminated sites

UW Tacoma is located in a former industrial area in the historic warehouse district of Tacoma. During campus development, extensive soil and groundwater contamination was identified. Soil and groundwater contains volatile organic compounds, metals and petroleum hydrocarbons depending on the location.

The UW entered into an Agreed Order with the Washington State Department of Ecology to assess and cleanup the contamination. Under the Agreed Order the UW is considered a potentially liable party and is responsible for investigation and remedial actions. The University is in the process of conducting further environmental assessments.

List of contaminated sites

Environmental Health and Safety maintains records on all contaminated sites and can provide assistance with identifying known or suspected contaminated sites. Project Managers should conduct a Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessment to determine if a site has any recognized environmental conditions.

Contacts for assistance

For assistance with site contamination issues such as the discovery of contamination or construction in known contaminated areas, please refer to the EH&S Design Guide on site contamination or call EH&S at 206.616.0585. For assistance with questions about disposal of contaminated media, please call EH&S at 206.616.5835 or email