End Near For Mukilteo Tank Farm -- Once Used By Military, Massive Landmark On Waterfront Soon Destined For Scrap Heap

MUKILTEO - Harry Truman was president the year they began their duty, standing erect as sentries along the Puget Sound shore. In their day they fueled bombers and jets for military bases around the region. In a few days their watch will end.

This week, the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue an order to tear down the 10 massive military fuel-storage tanks. The pink, blue and green tanks, which have dominated the Mukilteo waterfront for more than four decades, will be cut up and sold for scrap. The steel icons of the Cold War won't be turned into plowshares but perhaps cars.

"They will be shipped for re-melt," said Jeff Slotta of Iconco, a Seattle-based demolition company that will bring down the tanks. The company will use a "plate shear" to cut the tanks into sections that can be hauled away and melted.

Iconco has until September to remove the tanks. The company's pay will be what it can get in scrap value, according to the Air Force, which owns the tank farm.

"We will recycle everything except the asbestos," Slotta said.

The site opened in 1950 as an ammunition-loading terminal, and the tanks were added a short time later, according to Air Force records. The military hasn't used it since 1990, when it transferred its fuel-storage operation to Kitsap County.

The fate of the Mukilteo site probably won't be settled for several years. But U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Langley, and the military are getting credit for working out a deal to get rid of the tanks and to worry about what to do with the land later.

Although the Air Force owns the property, it has been leasing it to the Defense Logistics Agency since 1973. The Air Force can't declare the land surplus until environmental cleanup is done. That effort, which is being conducted by the Defense Logistics Agency and state Department of Ecology, has begun, and could take up to five years. Several thousand gallons of jet fuel that seeped into the soil must be removed.

Capt. Adriane Wood, a spokeswoman for McChord Air Force Base near Tacoma, said the idea to begin scrapping the tanks should be a relief for people of Mukilteo, many of whom regard them as eyesores.

"It's very scenic property," Wood said. "Even though it's not right outside our gate, we want to do what we can to be a good neighbor."

After the 25-acre site is cleaned up, the Air Force will turn it over to the General Services Administration, which then considers a list of federal, state and county agencies that are interested in the property.

Mukilteo, which wants the land, led the effort to conduct a $600,000 study of an idea to turn it into a ferry dock and transit center, which is expected to transform its downtown.

Mukilteo Mayor Brian Sullivan said he is exploring an idea to lease the land to avoid going through the lengthy surplus process.

So far, no other government agency has challenged Mukilteo's claim on the property, Sullivan said.