News Clips— Toxic shock

Tests show contamination from Georgetown waste site is worse than feared.

OOPS, THEY DID IT AGAIN. After earlier underestimating the breadth of contamination, dangerous-waste plant operator Philip Services Corp. now says its spilt chemicals have migrated even farther under Georgetown than previously thought. New tests show groundwater contaminants have reached as far west as Second Avenue and as far south as Fidalgo Street, Philip Services has told the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology.

"That means," says Georgetown community activist Tim O'Brian, "it has gone twice as far, more than double what they said earlier. That's amazing."

Federally required soil tests last year determined that chemicals—most likely due to a history of spills and dumping at Philip Services' 30-year-old dangerous-waste treatment site—had radiated into Georgetown's residential groundwater. Cleanup delays over the years have allowed carcinogens and other toxic elements to leach into the soil and move through a neighborhood aquifer.

The EPA has identified several dangerous chemicals, including vinyl chloride and trichloroethene, in the community's groundwater. In a February newsletter to local residents, the EPA says "city-supplied drinking water is not affected. . . . Groundwater, however, should not be used for drinking water or for any other purposes, such as irrigation."

In addition to posing groundwater health risks, the chemicals have created potential harmful gases in the basements of several Georgetown homes. City workers have also been told to take extra precautions when working in ditches and other underground areas of G-town.

The chemicals are presumed to be working their way toward the Lower Duwamish Waterway, into which numerous other historic industrial spills are flowing. (The Duwamish, which empties into Elliott Bay, appears destined to become a US Superfund site requiring major cleanup, costing dumpers and taxpayers millions.) More tests are planned soon along a farther western boundary at East Marginal Way.

US officials have called a public meeting this week in Georgetown (6:30pm Thursday, February 15, at the G-town Eagles Hall) to supply more details and answer questions about the new findings.

"To me," says O'Brian, "this confirms contamination at the playground here [in the pollutants' path near Philip Services' Lucille Street site]. They already found some chemical traces in a shallow aquifer that bubbles up to the playground surface. We really need some straight answers."

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