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Cleanup sites

We help clean up sites with hazardous and dangerous contamination, protecting human health and the environment. There are several different types of cleanup sites depending on the state or federal law directing the cleanup:

What are the different types of cleanup sites?

We often use the terms site, hazardous site, hazardous waste site, cleanup site, toxic cleanup site, and contaminated site interchangeably. A “site” is where we cannot rule out one or more releases (or threatened releases) of a hazardous or dangerous substance that needs to be cleaned up. There are more than 12,500 known or suspected contaminated sites in Washington, although we have cleaned up more than 6,600 of these sites.

Cleanups protect people’s health by removing toxic chemicals from the environment, like arsenic from playground soil or leaking barrels of chemicals in a solid waste landfill. Removing or containing the toxic contaminants at these sites protects people and the environment. And for some types of sites, it helps facilitate redevelopment of abandoned or neglected properties.

Although cleaning up contamination is always the goal, sites fall under different state or federal regulations, and so our cleanup work is divided into several categories.

Toxic cleanup sites

These sites are managed under the state’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). Sites range widely in size and complexity. Often, toxic cleanup sites result from past industrial practices such as aluminum smelting or chemical manufacturing. These cleanups are managed or overseen by our Toxics Cleanup Program.

Leaking underground storage tanks

Every year, just over 3 billion gallons of fuel is stored underground in Washington. Through our Underground Storage Tank program, we regulate more than 9,200 tanks at more than 3,400 facilities across the state. Despite these regulations, sometimes tanks leak. The contaminated area then becomes a toxic cleanup site managed or overseen by our Toxics Cleanup Program. To find a list of leaking underground storage tanks in Washington, search our database (click on Select a Report and then Leaking Underground Storage Tanks). 

Dangerous waste sites

These consist of current or former facilities that treated, stored, disposed of, or recycled dangerous waste, such as hazardous chemicals. These are called “corrective action” sites because they are now fixing the pollution problems they created during operation. These are either big chemical sites or hazardous waste disposal companies. Part of the Hanford Nuclear cleanup is a corrective action site. Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program oversees these types of cleanups. Some of these sites are cleaned up under the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA).

Industrial facilities sites

These are current or former industrial sites — some of the state’s largest — including refineries, smelters, and pulp and paper mills. Our Waste 2 Resources Industrial Section staff oversee cleanup work at this type of contaminated site, but does so according to MTCA’s standards, resulting in the same quality of protection for your health and the environment.