state solid and hazardous waste plan update photo identifier

State Solid and Hazardous Waste Plan Update

Photo: Numerous barrels of hazardous waste behind a Do Not Enter sign.
Barrels of hazardous waste behind a "Do Not Enter" sign.

Cleanup at Hazardous Waste Facilities

This indicator tracks the progress toward completing "corrective actions" at 39 priority dangerous waste treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facilities in Washington. TSDs are facilities that are permitted by the state to treat, store, or dispose of large amounts of dangerous waste either generated on-site or collected from other businesses. Corrective action is the term used for cleaning up contamination at TSDs.

Why should we be concerned about how much contamination exists at TSDs in Washington?

When dangerous or hazardous wastes are mismanaged, they get into water and soil where they may harm human health and the environment, or cause costly cleanup sites. While Washington has had over 6,400 toxic sites reported as cleaned up in the state, nearly 300 new sites are reported each year. The cost of cleaning up toxic sites range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars per site. Most cleanup costs are recoverable from property owners. However, when responsible parties aren't able to pay for cleanups, the burden often falls to taxpayers.

We want TSDs in Washington cleaned up before they close so that cleanup costs are not passed on to the citizens of Washington State. Contaminated sites of any kind pose environmental and health risks and cleanup can reduce or eliminate those risks. This also helps avoid sites being abandoned.

There is a long history of industrial use at corrective action sites, and most sites were operating before permits were required. In fact, many of them were never issued a permit as an operating TSD, and instead discontinued dangerous waste-handling activities once permits were necessary. These sites are still required to clean up contamination through a closure plan and corrective action.

Today, three operating, permitted Washington TSDs are also corrective action sites. While there will always be some level of risk of release from any activity that handles dangerous materials or wastes, today's permit requirements minimize the potential for release. This maximizes our chances of avoiding new cleanup sites. Operating TSDs are required to notify Ecology of releases and conduct any cleanup necessary.

Cleanups are proceeding or have been completed at 39 priority TSDs designated as "significant" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ecology expects to compete cleanup at these facilities or have them in maintenance mode by 2020. Maintenance includes actions such as maintaining the integrity of structures and equipment, continued groundwater monitoring to ensure the remedy is working, and reviewing institutional controls regularly.

EPA uses two Environmental Indicators to track changes in the quality of the environment at corrective action sites:

  1. Current human exposures to contamination: progress on human exposures means reduced or no human contact with contaminants in concentrations exceeding established risk-based levels.
  2. Migration of contaminated groundwater: progress on migration of contaminated groundwater means that the movement of contaminated groundwater has stabilized and not expanded.

In Washington, human exposures to toxic substances are under control at 88 percent of TSDs, while migration of contaminated groundwater is under control at 85 percent of these TSDs. EPA's 2015 national goals for these measures are 90 and 79 percent respectively.

Click on the image below for larger view.

Corrective Action at TSD Facilities Data

The formula for calculating our progress toward overall completion at these 39 corrective action sites changed in 2014 to more accurately reflect actual on-site progress. Changes to the formula, while more accurate, dropped our current overall progress from 80 percent to 77 percent and increased annual progress needed on all sites tracked to four percent rather than the former target of three percent annually to meet our 2020 goal.

What are the benefits of reducing the amount of contamination at TSDs?

Once clean, previously contaminated properties reduce human and environmental health risks and provide opportunities for:

  • Habitat restoration
  • Economic development
  • Continued industrial use
  • Public recreation

What actions are being taken to decrease environmental contamination at TSD facilities in Washington?

Ecology and other organizations are:

  • Continuing to ensure that all state permitted TSDs are operated in a safe manner, so we minimize the number of cleanup sites in the state.

For more information, contact Gretchen Newman, 360-407-6097.

This page last updated March 2016