Bremerton Shipyard Proposed For Superfund List

The Environmental Protection Agency today proposed that the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton be added to the Superfund list of the nation's most polluted sites.

The 102-year-old shipyard, which occupies two miles of shoreline on Sinclair Inlet, has soil, ground water and sediments on the inlet's floor contaminated with heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides and other pollutants, the EPA said.

The agency also proposed listing the Pacific Sound Resources wood-treatment plant on Elliott Bay near the Duwamish River's West Waterway in Seattle.

That the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is polluted is no secret. The Navy, which employs 12,000 at the installation, generates substantial quantities of hazardous waste in building and repairing ships.

EPA's Nancy Harney said the agency began studying the shipyard for Superfund listing in 1988. "The listing process is a long and cumbersome one," she said. "A lot of data had to be collected. It's an enormous facility."

The listing proposal came as no surprise to Ken Moser of the Puget Sound Alliance, which has sued the shipyard for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act. "Clearly there has been considerable degradation to Sinclair Inlet," Moser said.

EPA may not make a final decision on whether to list the shipyard until next year. If the proposal is approved, Harney said, the Defense Department should give the shipyard a higher priority in allocating cleanup money.

Superfund status also would give the EPA more authority over cleanup, she said.

Of 51 final and proposed Superfund sites in Washington, 17 are federal installations. The list includes sites at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Fort Lewis, the Bangor Naval Submarine Base in Kitsap County, Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma and the Whidbey Naval Air Station.

State and federal environmental officials say the Bremerton naval shipyard is cleaning up its act. But the installation has a long record of environmental problems. In 1992 alone:

-- The Puget Sound Air Pollution Control Agency fined the shipyard $300,000 for asbestos-handling violations, and ordered sweeping changes in training, inspection and operations.

-- An EPA investigation, prompted by two spills of cancer-causing PCBs into Sinclair Inlet, uncovered numerous violations of federal toxics law.

-- The state Department of Ecology ordered the shipyard to overhaul its hazardous-waste program after a state-federal inspection found still more violations in storage, labeling, security, safety, training and disposal.

In a prepared statement, the Navy said many of the contaminated sites at the shipyard were polluted during and before World War II. "During the time of their disposal . . . no one was fully aware that these materials had hazardous qualities," the statement said. "We are proud of the progress already made toward studying and cleaning up these sites."

Comments on the Superfund listing proposals should be mailed to: Docket Coordinator, CERCLA Docket Office (Mail stop OS-245), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M St. S.W., Washington, DC 20460.