Boeing Auburn cleanup site

We oversee the cleanup process that Boeing conducts at its Auburn facility at 700 15th St. SW. Low levels of soil and groundwater contamination at this site extend more than a mile north and northwest of Boeing’s property.

What’s happening now at the site? 

Boeing will carry out a cleanup plan approved by Ecology. Before a cleanup plan is approved, there are detailed steps in the cleanup process.

Currently, Boeing is drafting a feasibility study to evaluate cleanup methods to address contamination on and off the site. Once completed, we will hold a public comment period where you can read their plan and voice your thoughts and concerns. We also plan to hold several workshops where we will explain the treatments Boeing plans to use to clean up the site.
We expect the public comment period to occur early in 2020. Join our listserv to be notified!

Upcoming comment periods

Before completing major steps in the cleanup process, we share our plans with the public and request feedback on our decisions. We will post upcoming public comment periods and events related to the cleanup here, or join our listserv to be notified.

Early 2020

We will hold a public comment period in early 2020 for the feasibility study. Exact dates will be posted here.

Past comment periods

How did the site get contaminated?

In the past, Boeing treated, stored, and disposed of hazardous waste at its Auburn facility. Contamination on the property varies by location, but it includes traces of metals, petroleum hydrocarbons, and solvent chemicals.
Boeing's Auburn facility produces parts, tools, and assemblies for commercial aircraft. The contamination likely came from manufacturing operations during the mid-1960s to the early-1990s. During this time, Boeing used trichloroethene (TCE) as a degreasing solvent to clean metal parts.
We don’t think the contamination came from a single release or spill. TCE was used at the facility from 1966 until the early 1990s, so Boeing believes the contamination occurred during this timeframe. TCE is no longer used at Boeing Auburn, so there is no risk of additional TCE contamination from the facility.

What needs to be done to clean up the site?

Even though soil contamination levels are low and not a risk to human health and the environment, contamination above cleanup levels must be addressed. Boeing must further evaluate four of the 31 areas on their property that have soil contamination above cleanup levels. Chemicals released may include low levels of petroleum hydrocarbons, cyanide, and metals (such as cadmium and copper). 

Surface water is safe. Boeing collected hundreds of water samples on and near the site, including from:

  • Government Canal
  • Stormwater collection ditch on Chicago Avenue
  • O Street wetland
  • Outlet Collection stormwater ponds and collection ditch
  • Auburn 400 ponds
  • Mill Creek and various wetlands associated with Mill Creek, including Auburn Environmental Park

Testing showed that these sites did not contain toxic chemicals at levels that affect human health. We asked  Boeing to continue to evaluate groundwater across the site to make sure that contaminants are not reaching surface waters.

Groundwater moves slowly through soil, sand, and rocks underground. Although groundwater contamination is above cleanup levels, the concentrations are low and are not affecting people, pets or the environment. We asked Boeing to continue to evaluate site-wide groundwater contamination and potential cleanup options. The plume of low-level TCE contamination in groundwater at Boeing Auburn extends for more than a mile north and northwest of the Boeing Auburn facility. Where contamination levels are above cleanup thresholds, we're developing a strategy to clean up the groundwater. 

Breathing the air near Boeing Auburn is not harmful to human health. Air samples were taken from inside and outside homes and commercial buildings, and the results reviewed by the Department of Health. We will keep watching the levels of volatile contaminants in groundwater during the cleanup. If contaminant levels rise in groundwater, we can ask for more indoor air samples to make sure that indoor air remains safe. 

For more information, read:

What's the timeline for site cleanup?

Ecology and Boeing signed an agreement in 2002 and began working to understand where contamination was located and develop a plan for cleanup. In 2009, Ecology found that the groundwater contamination had spread off Boeing property and told the company to do more sampling to find out how far the plumes had spread.
Here is the timeline of the Boeing Auburn site cleanup and where we are in the cleanup process.

Frequently asked questions