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Wednesday, June 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Port OKs $6 million to start cleanup of South Park site

Seattle Times business reporter

Pressured by community concern, the Port of Seattle Commission yesterday approved spending $6 million to begin cleaning up a highly contaminated tract of land in the South Park neighborhood but left open the question of how vigorously it would scrub the soil.

The land is so contaminated with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and waste oil from its days as the Malarkey Asphalt plant that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants cleaning to begin before the rainy season arrives this fall.

Last year, the EPA found "hot spots" where contaminant concentrations are as much as 4,000 parts per million. The agency has ordered the Port to clean the land to a contamination level of 10 parts per million, which would allow it to be used for industrial purposes.

But the land sits near single-family homes in South Park, a small neighborhood growing in population and political savvy.

Residents envision a park or shopping center on the 2-acre tract — uses that need the land scrubbed to a level of 1 part per million, which could double the cleanup cost.

More than a dozen residents turned up at the commission's meeting room at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to urge the Port to clean it better.

"We will not live quietly with hazardous waste," said Antonia Koenig.

Residents are mobilized and could sue if the Port ignores community wishes, she said.

As it happened, the commissioners were receptive. Worried about lawsuits and higher costs down the road for not doing the full cleanup now, the commission voted to amend the EPA order in about 30 days to specify cleaning the land to 1 part per million contamination.

At the same time, it authorized spending $6 million to get work started.

And it said it would meet with residents to figure out how the land should be used. If it turns out they want something that requires less than 1 parts per million cleaning, the plan could change again.

The discussion, in which everyone basically agreed, took 2-½ hours anyway.

Some residents said the EPA order didn't go far enough and urged the commission to reject it outright. But EPA official Sheila Eckman said if that happened, the agency would use its authority to force the Port to start the cleanup.

The land, near 17th Avenue South and Dallas Avenue South, is part of a broader Superfund area in the lower Duwamish Waterway that the EPA and the Port are working to clean up.

It is known as Terminal 117 and includes Malarkey Asphalt and other property adjacent to the Duwamish River.

Seattle City Light appears to be among the polluters, putting waste oil that contained PCBs there.

Alwyn Scott: 206-464-3329 or ascott@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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