Legacy of industrial use comes at a price for park clean up

Nothing comes without expenses when it comes to soil clean up and decontamination after decades of industrial metal plating. And those costs seem to grow as the clean up continues time and again.

The latest clean up effort to learn that lesson can be found at the site of the former American Plating Co. located at 2110 E. ‘D’ St. Foss Waterway Development Authority (FWDA) has begun remediation so that the 1.7-acre site can be used as a park. First estimates by the Department of Ecology projected about 350 tons of soil and heavy metals would have to be removed. Recent estimates put the actual amount at about 1,100 tons that will have to be removed and then capped with about 3,500 tons of clean dirt before the park can open.

“That is why we have the escalating costs,” said FWDA Interim Director Su Dowie. “It is not unusual at all in these remediation projects.”

The initial contract was for $680,000 and has since doubled to $1.2 million. The difference was covered by the City of Tacoma tapping into its brownfield fund that was going to be used to clean up Point Ruston Waterwalk. The contamination of arsenic, lead and nickel are left over from the metal plating businesses that operated on the site between 1955 and 1986. 

Waterway plans now include cleaning up the site and using it as a waterfront park that could eventually be owned and operated by Metro Parks. But that partnership is still under negotiation and would only come if there is a funding source for ongoing maintenance. That money could come from donations, grants or lease payments to a vendor that would rent kayaks or canoes for people looking to paddle their way along the Thea Foss.

Although work on the park began in May and about half of the site is already open to the public, renovations of the current buildings for use as a boathouse and other upgrades will be funded through grants, which could mean that work drags on for years.

“Public money is drying up,” Dowie said. "So the progress to get these projects done will likely be phased in over time.”


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