Cleaning up: Pasco Landfill

Waste removed safely and with the community and environment in mind

Ecology is celebrating the successful collaboration and diligent work that led to the safe removal of more than 35,000 drums from the Zone A industrial waste area of the closed Pasco Landfill. On June 29, the parties responsible for cleanup, contractors who completed the work, local government, and Ecology representatives gathered to recognize the monumental achievement at one of Washington’s most challenging cleanup sites.

Why are we so excited? Not only does this bring a cleanup that’s been ongoing for the last 30 years much closer to completion, it also permanently removes long-term risk to people and the environment in the Tri-Cities area. This is important because the community already carries more than their fair share of environmental burden being in close proximity to the Hanford nuclear site.

Additionally, contractors completed the work safely and ahead of schedule, incorporated green principles into the cleanup plans, and positively impacted the community by sourcing the workforce and materials locally as much as possible and donating to local food banks and emergency response organizations. 

Safety first

Contractors removed over 23,000 tons of hazardous waste, working more than 100,000 safe labor hours over the 21-month project. They did this in extreme weather conditions wearing personal protective equipment — including positive pressure, full-facepiece self-contained breathing apparatuses and chemical-resistant clothing — all while properly handling hazardous waste and operating specialized equipment. To ensure worker and community safety, work was done within a temporary structure with an air treatment system, and air quality was monitored inside and outside the structure.

After the waste was excavated, characterized, and separated by waste type, it was transported — with ZERO incidents — a total of more than 800,000 miles to disposal facilities that accept hazardous waste in Grand View, Idaho and Arlington, Oregon. In addition, nearly 2 million miles were safely traveled while transporting project supplies and materials, mobilizing and demobilizing heavy equipment, and by employees commuting to the job site.

Cleanup goes green

Reduce, reuse, and recycle … on a cleanup project? Why, yes! The contractors who planned the cleanup incorporated the following components to make the work environmentally friendly:

  • The sheet pile driven into the ground around the excavation area to prevent the walls from collapsing was made with 20% recycled content
  • 229 tons of concrete, 10.45 tons of steel, and 1,000 tons of asphalt used on the project were recycled
  • 329 tons of concrete ballast, which are the large blocks that were chained to the temporary structure to hold it down, were repurposed
  • 93% of the energy used on the project was from renewable resources (for example, hydropower and wind)
  • 23,220 gallons of biodiesel, a clean-burning, renewable fuel, were used instead of petroleum diesel
  • About 173,000 gallons of stormwater were treated and reused for dust suppression, instead of using drinking water

Keeping it local

By hiring local companies to assist in making the work a success, more than 7 million dollars was directly injected into the local economy. Additionally, 42% of materials, supplies, and subcontractors came from less than 50 miles of the site.

The general contractor donated to Tri-Cities Food Bank, 2nd Harvest Food Bank, and St. Vincent DePaul Food Bank. Unused protective chemical suits were donated to the local fire department and Local Emergency Planning Council, whose collaboration was instrumental in ensuring the safe execution of the project.

About the Pasco Landfill

The Pasco Landfill is about 1.5 miles northeast of the City of Pasco and covers nearly 200 acres. The landfill opened in 1958. Waste was burned in trenches until 1971, when the site became a sanitary landfill. From 1972 to 1975, the landfill accepted industrial waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency added the site to the National Priorities List in 1990. Ecology took over responsibility in 1991, and the landfill closed in 2001. Ongoing cleanup over the past two decades has reduced groundwater contamination at the landfill property and in off-property areas. Taking the additional steps of removing the buried drums and thermally treating remaining contaminated soil will continue to ensure people and the environment are protected.