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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Former Rhone-Poulenc Facility, Tukwila, Washington

The former Rhone-Poulenc facility is located adjacent to the Lower Duwamish Waterway in Tukwila, Washington. The site is being cleaned up because toxic wastes from the property are moving with the groundwater into the river.

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Site History and Cleanup Status

Industrial operations on the original property date back to the 1930s when I.F. Laucks built a pilot plant to formulate glue for use in plywood manufacturing. In 1949, Monsanto Chemical Company (Monsanto) purchased the property and continued the manufacture of glue, as well as paints, resins, and storage of wood preservatives. In 1952, Monsanto commenced vanillin production on the property in addition to previous products, and ceased production of dry glue and resin around 1969 and hardener and extender in 1970. Vanillin production continued at the facility after Monsanto sold the property to Rhone-Poulenc, Inc. in 1985. Rhone-Poulenc, Inc. stopped chemical operations in April 1991, and thereafter transferred title to the property to Rhodia, Inc. in January 1998. In November 1998, Rhodia sold the property to Container Properties LLC, the current owner.

The RCRA corrective action process at the facility to date has included the initial RCRA Facility Assessment (1990) and the RCRA Facility Investigation (1995). Subsequent investigations have included geoprobe and geotechnical investigations, sediment and porewater investigations, and ongoing quarterly groundwater monitoring.

Interim cleanup actions at the facility have included numerous excavations for removal of soil contaminated with petroleum, toluene, and metals. Soil vapor extraction and air sparging was conducted for removal of toluene in soil and groundwater. Installation of a hydraulic control interim measure comprised of a low-permeability subsurface barrier wall and a pump-and-treat system prevents flow of contaminated groundwater from the property to the Lower Duwamish Waterway.

The liable parties will soon begin a pilot study where carbon dioxide is injected to lower the caustic high pH in the site’s soil and groundwater. EPA also will work with the parties to conduct site-wide groundwater sampling. The information from the pilot study and the sampling will help inform the future Corrective Measures Study to figure out how to clean up the remaining contamination. 

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Site Description

The facility is located adjacent to the Lower Duwamish Waterway in the city of Tukwila, Washington, in Seattle’s South End Industrial District (see map).

The original property occupied approximately 25 acres, but in 2006, it was divided into two separate parcels: the West Parcel (14.4 acres) and the East Parcel (6.6 acres). The East Parcel was remediated in 2006-2007 and later sold to the Museum of Flight Foundation. A public high school was subsequently constructed on the Museum of Flight property and opened in October 2013.

The West Parcel consists of an upland area, a shoreline, and a tideflat that extends into the Lower Duwamish Waterway. The West Parcel was redeveloped in 2006 and most of the upland area is paved. Since 2007 the property has been leased to an auction company for temporary storage of wrecked vehicles. The tideflat is composed almost entirely of sediments that are exposed during normal low tides.

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Contaminants at this Facility

The primary contaminants remaining in groundwater and soil in portions of the upland and shoreline areas of this facility include toluene, metals (primarily copper), and caustic (high pH). Other contaminants which have been detected sporadically include petroleum hydrocarbons and semi-volatile organic compounds.

Contaminants remaining in the sediments in the tideflats area include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, and benzyl alcohol.

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

Corrective action is complete for the East Parcel and no controls are required. The West Parcel is still being investigated and remediated; the need for any institutional or engineering controls will be determined later in the process. 

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

The East Parcel corrective action is complete and the parcel was sold to the Museum of Flight in 2006. The West Parcel is still being investigated and remediated.

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Regulatory Authority

RCRA Corrective Action activities at this facility are being conducted under the direction of EPA Region 10, under the Administrative Order on Consent for Corrective Action (Order) Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Docket No. 1091-11-20-3008(h).

The original Order was signed in 1993 with Rhone-Poulenc, Inc. and its successors as Respondents to the Order, or liable parties. In 1998, Container Properties, LLC, purchased the property. The names of the Respondents were updated in a 1999 amendment to the Order: Container Properties, LLC, Rhodia Inc., and all successors to Rhone-Poulenc Inc., including but not limited to Bayer CropScience, Inc. Rhodia Inc. has been acquired by Solvay, Inc.  

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