The Department of Ecology has fined Bellevue Investors I LLC $280,000 for illegally sending soil contaminated with dry cleaning solvent to solid waste landfills.
Bellevue Investors I LLC, a subsidiary of Vulcan Real Estate, was permitted for the removal and transport of 128,820 tons of contaminated soil from the redevelopment project at 117 106th Ave. NE in Bellevue. With Ecology approval, developers may dispose of contaminated soil in municipal solid waste landfills only when soil samples show toxicity levels are low enough. Excess material or soil from an area not yet sampled and approved must go to a dangerous waste facility or be stockpiled on site until Ecology reviews sample results and authorizes its shipment to a solid waste landfill.
Without authorization from Ecology and despite warnings to stop, the company removed and trucked an additional 30 million pounds (just over 14,000 tons) of hazardous material in July and December of 2020. The company asked Ecology for permission after the soil was in the solid waste landfill, and failed to include dangerous waste manifests with the shipments.
“Bellevue Investors failed to follow a process that protects human health and the environment—a process all major developers use and understand,” said Darin Rice, manager of Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “The company excavated more than they were supposed to and disposed of the soil in the wrong place, despite knowing the required steps in the process. We need a level playing field for all developers to prevent hazardous waste from contaminating landfills and endangering people and the environment.”
Once standard in the dry cleaning industry, perchloroethylene (PERC) is a solvent that’s been in use since the 1920s. PERC is a carcinogen and has contaminated soil and groundwater near businesses that use it. Exposure to PERC can cause people to become dizzy, drowsy, and nauseous, and experience skin and respiratory irritation. Extended exposure has been linked to neurological effects, organ damage, and cancer. Ecology allowed the additional PERC-contaminated soil Bellevue Investors I LLC placed in solid waste landfills to remain there because test data showed it was below the risk threshold, however, developers must seek approval before sending contaminated soil to solid waste landfills so Ecology can prevent hazardous waste from contaminating solid waste landfills.
“Bellevue Investors I LLC was surprised and disappointed to learn of these allegations. We disagree with these allegations, expect to appeal the penalty to the PCHB, and look forward to having the opportunity to demonstrate these allegations are incorrect,” said Vulcan Development Manager Nick Lenington. “We look forward to continuing to work with Ecology as we clean up contaminated property and bring these blighted properties back into productive use.”
Bellevue Investors I LLC may appeal Ecology’s penalty to the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.