Department of Ecology News Release - July 20, 2016

Drilling for monitoring wells starts July 25 on and around the University of Washington Tacoma campus.Drilling for monitoring wells starts July 25 on and around the University of Washington Tacoma campus.

Underground sampling for contamination starts next week in neighborhoods near UW Tacoma campus

TACOMA – The search is on for underground contamination spreading into soil and groundwater originally found beneath the University of Washington Tacoma campus.

Drilling for monitoring wells begins July 25 and continues through August at several locations near and on the UW Tacoma campus. Neighboring residents and businesses can expect drilling noise and traffic control during work hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Decades of industrial uses left several plumes of groundwater contamination under the former railroad and warehouse district that today houses the UW Tacoma campus and surrounding neighborhoods. Some sources have been located, but the added monitoring will help define the extent of contamination on and around the campus.

Drilling is planned to begin in the area between Tacoma and Yakima avenues from South 17th to South 21st streets. In the coming weeks, drilling for wells is scheduled at various other locations on and around the UW Tacoma campus. Work could begin as early as 7 a.m. on campus.

Historical contamination

The groundwater contamination was originally discovered on the UW Tacoma campus, which covers about 46 acres between South 21st and South 17th streets between Pacific and Tacoma avenues. The area is part of the Union Depot Historic Warehouse District, which served rail commerce at the terminus of the transcontinental railroad beginning more than 100 years before the university arrived. Other commercial and industrial uses in the area included dry cleaning, auto repair operations and various manufacturing.

As UW Tacoma was built and expanded, studies found groundwater polluted with petroleum hydrocarbons, benzene, trichloroethene (TCE), and perchloroethene (PCE). The risk to human health from this underground contamination is considered to be low, but at high enough levels PCE, TCE, and petroleum hydrocarbons could harm people and the environment.

In 2013, a limited cleanup action began on the Howe Parcel portion of the UW Tacoma cleanup site. Groundwater contaminated with PCE is being treated and monitored.

Learn more

Here’s where to find information about UW Tacoma contamination and environmental studies:


Seth Preston, Ecology communications, 360-407-6848, @ecologyWA

Michael Wark, Director of External Relations, UW Tacoma, 253-692-5771