EPA Settlement Reached On The `Tacoma Tar Pits'


Past and present owners of the polluted "Tacoma Tar Pits" in this city's industrial section may pay more than $20 million to clean up toxic chemicals under a settlement announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Washington Natural Gas will spend an estimated $15 million to $18 million, and Joseph Simons & Sons will spend $4.5 million for cleanup over the next six years, under the settlement.

Simons operates a metal-recycling facility on the Tacoma Tideflats, on property on which a coal-gasification plant operated from 1924 to 1956. The "Tar Pits" take their name from the coal-tar wastes produced by the gas plant.

The agreement with Washington Natural Gas raises from 45,000 cubic yards to 79,000 cubic yards the amount of contaminated soil that will be chemically treated. In addition, 100,000 square yards of soil will be covered with an impervious cover.

Six separate settlements have been reached between the government and 21 parties with potential liability for the contamination. Burlington Northern Railroad has agreed to pay $180,000; the Union Pacific Railroad $200,000; and the city of Centralia, the Port of Tacoma and five utilities $164,000, among others.

Washington Natural Gas and Joseph Simons & Sons also agreed to pay $600,000 for failing to comply with earlier enforcement orders, the EPA announced.

EPA Regional Administrator Dana Rasmussen called the settlements "a significant step toward cleaning up a major Superfund site."