General Electric Co. is hauling 700 dump truck loads of contaminated soil from an east Spokane site where the company repaired transformers for 19 years.
GE is spending “in excess of $10 million” cleaning up the 6-1/2-acre site at 4323 E. Mission, said Deborah Hankins, a company spokeswoman in San Francisco. The former service shop is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund list.
GE is hauling about 7,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil to a landfill in Oregon. The company already has used an experimental process to incinerate about 1,300 cubic yards of highly contaminated soil.
Coolants used in transformers repaired at the shop from 1961 until 1980 contained PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a chemical that since has been recognized as a probable carcinogen and cause of birth defects.
A study by the state Department of Ecology showed that before cleanup began, PCBs in the soil were 2,000 times what the state considers safe. Test wells showed that the chemical reached the aquifer at 40 times state standards, although it dissipated before reaching any wells used to draw drinking water.
In 1995, GE proposed using an experimental “vitrification” process to treat the soil without removing it from the site. Because of the cost, GE treated only the most highly contaminated soil, which contained 74 percent of the PCBs, said Guy Gregory of the state Department of Ecology.
About 7,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with 10 or more parts per million is being removed in dump trucks, then transferred to train cars for hauling to the Arlington, Ore., landfill. The work should be done by fall.
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