A Little Green for the Brownfields

EPA awards $2.4 million for cleanups in Washington

In June 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded nearly $2.4 million in grants to five recipients in Washington to help assess and clean up local brownfields — properties that haven’t been redeveloped due to potential contamination with hazardous substances.

The five EPA grant recipients are:

We will be working in close partnership with EPA to assist the grant recipients and oversee assessment and cleanup — including making the final determination that a property is clean enough to meet state standards and be redeveloped.

Historical picture of Northern State Hospital showing the entrance gardens and an antique car

Historic photo of the former Northern State Hospital in Sedro-Woolley

Recipients will use the EPA grants to assess and clean up dozens of brownfield properties, including:

  • Former Northern State Hospital site at Sedro-Woolley
  • Former cherry orchard land in East Wenatchee
  • Blighted properties in Olympia
  • Contaminated properties in Spokane’s 770-acre University District on the Spokane River
  • Former ranch and wood product facilities on the Colville Reservation

To turn brownfield sites into marketable assets for the community, property owners will need to follow remedies that make sure each site meets state human health and environmental protection standards.

After meeting state cleanup requirements under the state Model Toxics Control Act, property owners can seek a “no further action” determination from us. This designation removes many barriers to redevelopment and helps property owners get financing and approvals to develop the sites.

Planning for cleanups

The EPA awarded two types of grants to Washington recipients: assessment grants and cleanup grants.

Assessment grants provide funding for identification of contaminants, evaluation, and cleanup planning.

  • A “Phase I Environmental Site Assessment” is the first step in evaluating a brownfield site. Phase I assessments are a historical review to determine if contamination is likely. This sets the stage for further testing, planning, and cleanup.
  • Phase II assessments” are scientific evaluations. Soil, groundwater, surface water, and indoor air are sampled and tested to determine the exact contaminants and the extent of contamination. This information is required to plan the cleanup.

Assessment grants also help pay for public outreach and engagement so the community can be informed about the cleanup and the future of the properties.

Cleanup grants help pay for the actual work to clean up a site. Cleanup can take many forms, from removing and replacing soil, to complex treatment plans, to securing contaminants in place.

What the grants pay for

The northern State Hospital with trees and mountains in background

Northern State Hospital campus, a brownfield site in Sedro-Woolley that housed mental patients in a self-contained community.

  • The Port of Skagit County will use its $395,000 grant to clean up two areas of the former Northern State Hospital campus in Sedro-Wooley. The 225-acre site operated as a state mental health hospital from 1912 to 1972. The hospital campus has 600,000 square feet of buildings, a power plant, a former landfill, and several maintenance shops. The cleanup will focus on groundwater and soil contaminated with chlorinated solvents around the former laundry building, and the gymnasium field, which is contaminated with arsenic.

A view from 9th Street Park of the Wenatchee valley and a neighboring manufactured home park

Cherry seedlings growing in Ninth Street Park, a former cherry orchard, next to a neighborhood in East Wenatchee.

  • The Trust for Public Land will use the $500,000 federal grant to clean up the Ninth Street Park in East Wenatchee. This 2.3-acre park was a cherry orchard from the 1930s through 2008. The cherry trees were removed in 2011, but heavy metal and arsenic contamination remains in the soil from the lead arsenate used as a pesticide. Agricultural use of lead arsenate was stopped in the 1960s and the EPA banned its use entirely in 1988. The grant will also help fund community engagement activities and development of a site management plan that educates workers on the soil conditions and safe practices when working at the site.

  • The Olympia Regional Coalition is receiving a $600,000 grant. The focus is on the Peninsula and West Bay neighborhoods. The coalition will use the funds to conduct 14 Phase I and 10 Phase II site assessments, create five cleanup plans, update the city brownfields inventory, and conduct community outreach.

  • The City of Spokane will use its $600,000 grant for the 770-acre University District along the Spokane River. The city will use the money to assess potential historical contamination on 14 sites (Phase I), sample for contamination on eight more (Phase II), and develop eight cleanup plans and six reuse plans.

  • The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will use its $300,000 grant to assess potential contamination on three sites (Phase I) and conduct sampling on seven others (Phase II). The focus area includes three wood products facilities, a blighted residential property, and the chemical handling area of the former Hinmans Ranch. The grant money will also help create three cleanup plans and conduct public meetings.