Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Cleanup at former market and gas station property begins this year

By Steve Peer

In 2019 we acquired a piece of property next to State Route 520 in Seattle which was long occupied by the Montlake Market and 76 gas station. We needed to buy the property and remove the two businesses to enable major improvements to the SR 520 corridor, including reconstruction of the Montlake Boulevard interchange, construction of a landscaped, three-acre lid over the freeway, and the addition of bus/carpool lanes on the highway. 

During the acquisition process, we confirmed the presence of contaminated soils on the property caused by the decades-long operation of the gas station and its associated operations. As the new owner of the property, we're committed to cleaning up the contamination, which will start later this year.
These pictures from 2017 show the former 76 gas station (left) and the Montlake Market, which formerly operated at the property in Seattle's Montlake neighborhood that we acquired in 2019 and plan to clean up.
Testing the property to better understand the source, type, and spread of contamination

Prior to purchasing the property, we conducted extensive testing to better understand the type of contamination and how far it spread. Here are the four key findings the testing confirmed and the steps we've taken as a result. 
  • Underground storage tanks: Four tanks are buried at the property: three stored gasoline and one stored waste oil. In 2020 we pumped out and cleaned the underground gasoline-storage tanks so they can be safely left in the ground until crews are ready to clean up the site.

  • Type of contamination: We found petroleum-based contaminants on the property. Based on these types of contaminants and the property's decades-long history of use by a gas station and associated activities, the contamination relates to spills and/or leaks from these gas station operations.

  • Location of contamination: The contamination is in the soil and groundwater. It does not appear to have reached private properties, but it has spread to adjacent areas below Montlake Boulevard and the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard. We're closely coordinating with King County regarding their combined sewer and the City of Seattle about the cleanup activities that will extend into Montlake Boulevard and the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard. We expect some traffic impacts during the cleanup work. 

  • Community and environmental safety: Our testing confirmed that the contaminants that are present are not currently affecting the health and safety of community members or water supplies. During the cleanup work some odor and dust will be generated that will be monitored to verify that it does not pose a substantial risk to the nearby neighborhoods. We will take all appropriate safety measures, including coordinating with the proper regulatory agencies and providing any necessary public notifications. 
If you're interested in learning more about the contaminants and testing, read the Montlake Texaco - Remedial Investigation Report on the state Department of Ecology website. 

Cleanup could start as early as this summer

Over the past several months we've worked with Graham, the SR 520 Montlake Project contractor, to develop a plan for their cleanup of the property. The work is expected to take place in three phases. 
  • Phase 1 – Tank removal and on-property soil removal: Later this summer, crews will remove the four underground storage tanks from the former gas station property and begin excavation and removal of contaminated soil.

  • Phase 2 – In-street soil removal: Crews will take advantage of the already scheduled SR 513 Montlake Bridge closure – planned  for Aug. 9 to Sept. 2 – to excavate and remove the contaminated soil that extends underneath Montlake Boulevard and the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard. Doing the work during the SR 513 closure will reduce the number of street-closure days needed to complete this cleanup work and will shorten the overall construction impact to the community.

  • Phase 3 – Addressing groundwater contamination, filling with clean soil, and monitoring contamination concentrations: After the contaminated soil is removed, some contamination will still remain in the groundwater. Crews will place compounds that add oxygen to the deep soil and groundwater. This procedure will increase the speed of naturally occurring processes that clean groundwater. Crews will then backfill the excavated site with clean soil and top the site with asphalt. We expect crews to complete the work by the end of September. Finally, for at least the following year as the natural cleanup process continues, we will monitor the concentration of the site's groundwater contamination to verify that its decline meets state standards.
You can learn more about the plan in the recently submitted Remedial Action Plan on the state Department of Ecology website.
Here is the approximate area of the former 76 gas station and Montlake Market property and extent into Montlake Boulevard and the eastbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake Boulevard that we plan to excavate, remove contamination and refill with clean soil.
Working with experts

We enrolled our Montlake property in the Department of Ecology's Voluntary Cleanup Program in 2019. Under the program, we closely coordinate with Ecology and receive the department's technical assistance. The goal is receiving Ecology's approval that all necessary cleanup is completed – known as a "Notice of No Further Action." You can learn more about the voluntary program and our Montlake cleanup project on Ecology's Montlake Texaco webpage.

Who pays for all this?

All testing, planning, construction, and monitoring work is being initially funded through the budget for the Montlake Project. The cleanup work is estimated to cost somewhere between $3.5-$5 million. 

We're seeking reimbursement for our cleanup costs from the previous gas station operator and land owners pursuant to the Washington State Model Toxic Control Act, and consistent with the settlement agreement through which we acquired the property. 

Completing the cleanup and selling the Montlake Property

Once monitoring shows contamination levels consistently meet state standards and all Montlake Project construction is complete, including street and sidewalk improvements, we plan to sell the property through a public process at fair market value as required by state law. The property is zoned as "Neighborhood Commercial," which the City of Seattle defines as "a small shopping area that provides primarily convenience retail sales and services to the surrounding residential neighborhood." 

Keeping community members informed

We're eager to remove the site's pollution and restore the property for future use, though we recognize this work requires temporary disturbance to community members and travelers. 

We'll have more details about what neighbors can expect during the cleanup as the work nears. To stay in the loop, we invite you to: