By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you drove, walked, or rode past 21st/Andover in Pigeon Point on Friday, you might have noticed the crew working at the old Seattle City Light substation on the northwest corner. It’s one of the six West Seattle “surplus” sites that City Light is looking to unload.
A reader wondered if a decision about this site’s fate had already been made, considering that the tree work being done by the crew yesterday looked extensive. So we checked with City Light – and found out it’s more than tree work. SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen tells WSB it’s part of a cleanup at the site, after soil sampling at the site turned up contamination beyond what’s considered acceptable for residential property.
While he stresses that no decisions have been made about this or any of the other sites, he told WSB, “As part of our look at potential disposition of the land, we did some soil sampling to check on contamination, since before selling or otherwise transferring it, we would want to take care of remediation.”
Sampling at 21st/Andover turned up three substances at levels beyond what is now considered the “(needs) cleanup standard for residential property,” which he listed during our conversation as:
*DDT, at a concentration of up to 6.2 parts per million (ppm), which is twice the residential limit of up to 3 ppm (industrial, Thomsen said, is 4 ppm)
*Lead, at a concentration of up to 290 ppm; residential limit is 250 ppm, industrial 1,000 ppm
*PCBs, at a concentration of up to 2.7 ppm; residential limit is 1 ppm, industrial 10 ppm
PCBs were used for insulating transformers, and while Thomsen says City Light “didn’t specifically buy it,” manufacturers of some equipment would have used it. DDT, you might recall, was a pesticide used widely until catastrophic effects were noticed in the ’70s, and its use at this site, according to Thomsen, dates back to the ’50s.
The tree removal is related to this, he explained, because their rootballs would hold contaminated soil; overall soil removal is planned for the site as part of the “remediation,” he added, which he said is precautionary even though “none of this (involves) dramatically high concentrations” of contaminants.
He didn’t have specific information handy on soil testing/cleanup needs for any of the other sites, but we’ll be checking back. And as for decisionmaking on the sites’ fate, he says there’s no specific timeline right now, but “discussions are ongoing.”
Community groups including the West Seattle Green Space Coalition have been advocating for a delay in decisionmaking so that there will be more options for the sites’ future. Sale for residential development would likely be quickly accomplished, but making it available for parkland or other open-space use would take more time, especially if community groups had to go through grant applications and/or fundraising to get money for purchasing it. If this 8,000-square-foot site were developed for residential use, since it is zoned L-1 (the L is for “lowrise”), five housing units would be allowed – cottages, townhouses, or rowhouses.