Frequently asked questions

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