March 29, 2006 in City

Railroad cleanup gets EPA award

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

Government officials and community leaders joined a developer on the North Bank of the Spokane River on Tuesday to celebrate completion of an environmental cleanup of a former railroad yard and fueling facility.

More than 223,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the site under one of the largest cleanups of its kind in the country, setting the stage for development of a large-scale urban village on the long-vacant property.

Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday the agency is presenting an outstanding brownfields team award for the officials who worked on getting the old rail facility cleaned up.

L. Michael Bogert, regional administrator for EPA, said the project – at $2.4 million – was the largest brownfields cleanup of its kind in the United States.

The money was made available to the state of Washington and then loaned to the property owner.

As many as 2,600 residential units and 1 million square feet of office and commercial space could be developed in the Kendall Yards project being spearheaded by Marshall Chesrown. Construction of streets in the first phase of the project could begin later this year, Chesrown said.

Removing contaminated soil was one of the first steps in getting the project started. “Finally, something is going to happen,” Chesrown told a gathering northwest of the Monroe Street Bridge.

Chesrown said some of the contaminated soil could have been left on the site and buried beneath pavement. “We chose to take it all out of the ground,” he said.

Initially, estimates showed that 90,000 tons of soil would be removed, or less than half of the final amount. Much of the contamination came from bunker C oil used in a Union Pacific Railroad steam locomotive facility at the northwest corner of the 77-acre property. The railroad operated there from 1914 through 1955, and the facility included a railroad turntable.

Along with the oil, excavators also found ash, lead, arsenic, asbestos-wrapped pipe and gaskets buried at depths ranging from a half-foot to 39 feet. It was spread over 20 acres. The waste was taken to a Waste Management landfill at Graham Road in western Spokane County. About 6 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material were placed in double-thick bags for disposal.

More than 1,100 dirt samples were taken from the site following the cleanup, and those tests showed levels of contamination below the cleanup threshold.

The first phase of development between the Monroe and Maple street bridges could involve 500,000 square feet of commercial space and 500 new residences, Chesrown said. Plans call for routing the Centennial Trail in front of the new buildings, which could rise to as tall as eight to 10 stories in a series of clusters and public plazas along the bluff of the North Bank.


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