The Occidental Chemical cleanup site (Oxy) is a federally-listed contaminated site, also known as a Superfund site. It has been on the federal Superfund list since the early 1980s, and cleanup options are currently being reviewed. The Department of Ecology is scheduled to release their draft Cleanup Action Plan this year, which will describe how the site will be cleaned up, how much pollution will be removed, and how much pollution will be left in the ground.

As state officials decide on a cleanup plan, the company responsible for the contamination – Occidental Chemical Corporation (formerly known as Hooker Chemical)- is pushing for a cheap cleanup option instead of an effective one. We can’t let that happen.

Threats from Pollution

For nearly 80 years, Oxy manufactured dry-cleaning chemicals along the Hylebos Waterway, in Commencement Bay, Tacoma. Decades of poor housekeeping practices and improperly disposing of waste has resulted in the groundwater and soil being contaminated by many hazardous materials, like bleach, heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.

This pollution poses a threat to both people and the environment. Chemicals may be seeping into Commencement Bay right now, and an earthquake or underwater landslide could result in an immediate and catastrophic release of toxins into the water. The pollution is so harsh and unsafe that, over time, it can also release the toxic, cancer-causing gas vinyl chloride. In some areas, the pH is as high as 14 – the same as drain cleaner – and can dissolve rock into a gel. Review the Remedial Investigation for more information about the contamination present at the site.

Pushing for an Effective Cleanup

Hylebos Waterway

The severity of Occidental Chemical Corporation’s pollution landed the site on the federal list of Superfund cleanups in the early 1980s. Decades later, we are finally nearing the start of the cleanup. The Washington Department of Ecology, which has the authority to control cleanup actions, is currently deciding on a cleanup plan. This will determine how much pollution gets removed, and how much stays in the environment forever.

However, the company responsible is setting the stage to walk away from this mess without a comprehensive cleanup. The 2017 Feasibility Study showed that Occidental Chemical Corporation is pushing for a cleanup that would remove only 41% of the toxic pollution. Cleaning less than half of this dangerous contamination is unacceptable. Despite the fact that Occidental brought in a whopping $152 million in pre-tax profits during the last quarter of 2016 alone, the company is advocating for a cheap option instead of an effective one. Occidental is responsible for leaving dangerous levels of pollution in dozens of cities across the country. Most notably, Occidental is responsible for the infamous Love Canal disaster, where 22,000 tons of toxic waste was left underground and started bubbling up in backyards and playgrounds.

In 2018, Ecology released their Responsiveness Summary to the Feasibility Study. In their response, Ecology acknowledged they needed to add a cleanup alternative that would address removing the most amount of toxic waste as possible. While we commend Ecology for making this acknowledgment, that does not ensure they will choose this alternative in their Cleanup Action Plan. We cannot afford to let polluters walk away from their mess. That’s why we need you to push for the strongest and quickest cleanup possible.

How Can I Help?

Check back soon for ways you can get involved!

Communities for a Healthy Bay has been involved in the Occidental cleanup process for nearly three decades. We are committed to providing the community with reliable and accurate information. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the community to ensure a healthy future for Tacoma and our waters – this means holding Occidental accountable for a stringent and thorough cleanup.

Email Erin Dilworth or call (253) 383-2429 for more information or to receive updates on this issue.

More Information

Check out our 2018 OxyChem Fact Sheet: 2018 OxyChem Fact Sheet 

Read the 2017 Feasibility Study: 2017 Feasibility Study 

Read our Feasibility Study Comment Letter: CHB Comment Letter 

Want to know more? Check out this article by Sightline Institute’s Eric de Place. 

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