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Toxics Cleanup Program

UW Tacoma site
Common Questions

Do you have questions about cleanup and vapor intrusion at the UWT site? We have answers.

What is the situation?

In parts of the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) cleanup site, groundwater – the water that flows under the ground through soil – is contaminated with petroleum products or degreasers called PCE and TCE. We believe these chemicals came from a variety of historical industrial activities, not from university activity. The contaminated groundwater (called a plume) flows east and northeast down the hill toward the Thea Foss Waterway. In extreme cases, vapors from chemicals in the groundwater, soil, sewers, or drain lines can pose a threat to indoor air quality through vapor intrusion .

To date, the chemicals found are at low levels and we do not expect them to pose a risk to human health and the environment. If we do find that any of these chemicals pose immediate risk, Ecology will direct UWT to implement interim actions that reduce risk.

Is the drinking water safe?

Yes. The water in homes and businesses in the area comes from public water systems that are separate from the groundwater at the UWT site. The Washington Department of Health regularly monitors these water systems to be sure the water is safe. 

Private wells are not monitored by the health department. Contact Ecology if you have a private well.

Can I eat fruits and vegetables from my garden?

Yes. Studies have been done on garden sites with higher levels of the same chemicals found at the UWT site. Those studies suggest that fruit and vegetables from gardens using groundwater containing these chemicals are safe for adults and children. The chemicals do not build up in the plant or fruit tissue.

How can these chemicals affect my health or my children's health?

Vapor intrusion has the potential to cause negative health impacts in extreme cases. People respond to chemical exposure in different ways. Some people can have contact with a chemical and never be harmed. Others may be more sensitive and get sick. Whether you have a reaction or get sick from contact with chemicals depends on many factors, including the how often a person is exposed, how long they are exposed for, and their overall health.

What can I do to stay informed and involved?

To stay up to date on the project, check this website for updates. You can also contact Megan MacClellan, the public involvement coordinator for the UWT cleanup site, to be added to an email or mailing list. We encourage feedback from the community on the cleanup process. Public comment periods are held at key points throughout the cleanup process.

Next Steps

Learn more about vapor intrusion

Related links


This page created January 11, 2017