Department of Ecology News Release - September 5, 2012


Ecology seeks public comments on plan to clean up Olympia City Hall site

OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology (Ecology) is seeking comments on a proposed plan to clean up the former downtown Safeway site, now the site of Olympia City Hall, at 601 4th Avenue East in Olympia.

The city already has removed contaminated soil from the site. Additional actions identified in the proposed cleanup action plan include replacing a groundwater monitoring well and establishing an environmental covenant to prohibit activities that might disturb a liner placed on the site’s south end. The liner keeps off-site contamination from leaching onto the site. The covenant also prohibits disturbing contaminated soils in the right of way.

The plan also calls for monitoring groundwater to make sure benzene levels continue to decrease. Under the current proposal, groundwater will be monitored for at least one year. If benzene remains above cleanup levels after one year, the city will develop a contingency plan.

Benzene is a liquid found in petroleum fuels and some manufacturing processes. Long-term exposure to benzene can cause harmful effects to bone marrow and the immune system. Benzene is now present only near one monitoring well. It currently poses no risk of exposure since it is not in drinking water. The environmental covenant would restrict groundwater use until benzene is below cleanup levels.

Ecology is accepting comments on these documents through Oct. 5, 2012. The documents may be viewed at:

Comments and questions may be directed to site manager Guy Barrett, Washington Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775. Contact Barrett by phone at (360) 407–7115 or e-mail at

Once the comment period closes, Ecology will review all comments received and respond to them in writing. Responses will be captured in a responsiveness summary, which will be posted on Ecology’s website.

If needed, Ecology can make changes based on public comments. After that, Ecology will finalize the cleanup action plan and sign the agreed order, enabling the city to begin the final cleanup actions.

Rebecca Lawson, Southwest Region Toxics Cleanup Program section manager, said: “This is one of the final steps in the cleanup process. The city took many significant steps, called ‘interim actions,’ to address this site while building City Hall between 2008 and 2009, including removing 39,742 tons of contaminated soil The proposed cleanup plan describes the final steps needed to fully clean up this site. The city has been doing a good job of stepping up and doing the work needed to eliminate contamination at this site.”

Other actions already completed include pumping out petroleum products floating in shallow aquifers, removing three underground petroleum storage tanks, and removing gas station debris, rubble and auto-body parts. Ongoing soil and groundwater sampling continues to ensure all sources of contamination are removed and a barrier is in place to prevent off-site contamination from entering the site.

Olympia City Manager Steve Hall said:  “The City Council decided to build the new City Hall in downtown Olympia as part of the city’s effort to revitalize the downtown.  The cleanup of this site is an important step in that process.”

In 2007, a study found several areas of possible contamination, including as many as five abandoned underground storage tanks. When the city investigated these areas further, both soil and groundwater samples showed concentrations of several pollutants above state cleanup levels.

The site has a long history in the community. Since the early 1900s, it has housed stores, a restaurant, an automobile manufacturing and painting business, automobile repair shops, and a gas station. When the city bought the site in 2007, it housed the former Safeway store, a former retail building, a restaurant and a parking lot. The city tore the buildings down in 2009 while doing interim cleanup actions and redeveloping the site.



Ecology: Linda Kent, 360-407-6239; 360-791-9830 (cell); email

City of Olympia: Rick Dougherty, 360-753-8485

For more information

Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Website (

Ecology's social media (