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Puget Sound Energy To Treat Contaminated Water at Tar Pits Site

Release Date: 5/14/2002
Contact Information: Lee Marshall
(206) 553-2723

May 14, 2002

Tar, metals and chemicals-laden soil removed, but benzene levels still above EPA cleanup goals

The northwest office of the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the Puget Sound Energy Company (PSE) will begin treating benzene-contaminated groundwater at the Tacoma Tar Pits Superfund site in Tacoma.

The water treatment effort announced today is part of a 1991 agreement between the EPA and Washington Natural Gas (WNG) -- now part of Puget Sound Energy -- that included a trigger for water treatment if the cleanup of soil contaminated with tar, chemicals and metals failed to fully alleviate the benzene problem.

Groundwater monitoring at the site indicates the benzene levels in groundwater are still above EPA standards. The company is expected to spend approximately $750,000 to treat the water which will then be discharged into the City of Tacoma's sewer system. The water treatment plant and the four extraction wells will prevent the benzene-contaminated water from reaching the Puyallup River

The 52-acre Tar Pits site was home to a coal gasification plant that WNG operated from 1924 through 1956. WNG spent over $40 million from 1991 to 1995 to conduct the soil cleanup.

"The contingency plan we put into the 1991 agreement was intended to ensure that a comprehensive clean-up takes place," said EPA Project Manager Lee Marshall. "We're fortunate we have a cooperative and diligent responsible party willing to live up to the agreement and get the work done in a timely manner. "