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Toxics Cleanup Program

UW Tacoma site

Click on map to view larger size.We are working with UW Tacoma to clean up historic soil and groundwater contamination under some buildings on and near the campus.

After historic contamination left chemicals from commercial degreasers, oil, and fuel in soil and groundwater, cleanup is underway at the University of Washington Tacoma cleanup site. We are in the early stages of cleanup, working with the University of Washington Tacoma to find the extent and types of contamination, and complete a smaller, partial cleanup in one part of the site.

Site background

The University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) site is on about 50 acres in south downtown. The site includes a mix of old and new buildings, ranging from new construction to structures over a century old. 

This part of downtown has a long legacy of industrial activity. Many of those activities contaminated the soil and groundwater with chemicals from solvents, oil, and fuel including:

We are motivated to clean up this contamination because each of these chemicals can be harmful to the environment and to people’s health. We are working to prevent release into Commencement Bay and people’s exposure through direct contact or vapors entering buildings.

Cleanup management

In the 1980s, a facility that stored and managed dangerous waste called Arrcom Inc. operated at the site. They closed and Washington state took over the site along with an adjacent property in the 1990s. In 1997, UWT and Ecology signed a Model Toxics Control Act Agreed Order to start site cleanup.

As the property owner, UWT accepted responsibility as the potentially liable party and agreed to work on cleaning up soil and groundwater at the site.

Under this Agreed Order, cleanup has already begun on a part of the UW Tacoma cleanup site called the Howe Parcel. The Howe Parcel is at the northeast corner of the UW Tacoma site. Through an interim action, groundwater treatment began there in 2013. In 2016, we finalized a new Agreed Order for the UW Tacoma Cleanup Site that requires UWT to:

  • Conduct a remedial investigation, which will describe the nature and extent of the contamination on the site.
  • Conduct a feasibility study, which will evaluate cleanup options for the site.
  • Submit a draft cleanup action plan, which will outline proposed cleanup actions for the site.

Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program is now the lead for the cleanup. The 2016 Agreed Order includes an expanded site footprint to focus on area-wide groundwater contamination, which is now considered the principal environmental issue.

Public participation

At milestones throughout the cleanup process, we hold public comment periods to encourage public participation. From March 17 – May 4, 2016, Ecology invited public comment on a public participation plan and the draft Agreed Order for the UW Tacoma Cleanup.  

You can read the documents and Ecology’s responses to the public comments we received:

The cleanup process

Click on image to view larger size.

What’s next in cleanup?

The next step toward cleanup at the UWT site is completing a remedial investigation to understand the extent and nature of contamination at the site. Activities designed to clean up part of the site, called interim actions, are also allowed under the current agreement.

Next step

Click the Current Events link in the bar on the left to find out the latest news for the UWT cleanup site.

Learn more about the background and cleanup at the UW Tacoma site. 

Acronyms used by the Toxics Cleanup Program
Cleanup process: major steps & definitions


This page created January 11, 2017

Contacts Information

Cleanup Project Manager
Marv Coleman
Washington Department of Ecology
Toxics Cleanup Program – Southwest Regional Office
PO Box 47775
Olympia WA 98506

Public involvement
Megan MacClellan
Public Involvement Coordinator
Washington Department of Ecology
Toxics Cleanup Program – Southwest Regional Office
PO Box 47775
Olympia WA 98506

Facility Site ID #: 1325
Cleanup Site ID #: 141

Document Review Locations
Southwest Regional Office
300 Desmond Dr. SE
Lacey, 98503-1274

UW Tacoma Library - Tioga Library Building
1907 Jefferson Ave
Tacoma, 98402

Citizens for a Healthy Bay
535 Dock St., Suite 213
Tacoma, 98402