We answer common questions about the UW Tacoma cleanup site including information about the cleanup process, health and safety, and how to stay informed.
In parts of the University of Washington Tacoma cleanup site, groundwater — the water that flows under the ground through soil — is contaminated with petroleum products or degreasers called PCE and TCE. We believe these chemicals came from a variety of historical industrial activities, not from university activity. The contaminated groundwater (called a plume) flows east and northeast down the hill toward the Thea Foss Waterway. In extreme cases, vapors from chemicals in the groundwater, soil, sewers, or drain lines can pose a threat to indoor air quality through vapor intrusion.
To date, the chemicals found are at low levels and we don't expect them to pose a risk to human health and the environment. If we do find that any of these chemicals pose immediate risk, we will direct UW Tacoma to implement interim actions that reduce risk.
To be included on the notification list for UW Tacoma updates, contact Tom Middleton at Thomas.Middleton@ecy.wa.gov.
Yes. The water in homes and businesses in the area comes from public water systems that are separate from the groundwater at the UW Tacoma site. The Washington Department of Health regularly monitors these water systems to ensure that the water is safe.
Private wells are not monitored by the health department. Contact us if you have a private well.
Vapor intrusion has the potential to cause negative health impacts in extreme cases. People respond to chemical exposure in different ways. Some people can have contact with a chemical and never be harmed. Others may be more sensitive and get sick. Whether you have a reaction or get sick from contact with chemicals depends on many factors, including how often a person is exposed, how long they are exposed, and their overall health.
Yes. Studies have been done on garden sites with higher levels of the same chemicals found at the UW Tacoma site. Those studies suggest that fruit and vegetables from gardens using groundwater containing these chemicals are safe for adults and children. The chemicals do not build up in the plant or fruit tissue.
At milestones throughout the cleanup process, we encourage public participation by inviting your comments on key cleanup documents. If you’d like to be included on our outreach list for these comment periods, contact Public Involvement Coordinator Megan MacClellan at 360-407-0067 or Megan.MacClellan@ecy.wa.gov.