Contamination Clean-up at Magnuson Park


Plans for cleaning up the radioactive-contamination at Magnuson Park will be the center of citizen attention in a Thursday night, July 18, public hearing. The meeting will get going at 6:30 in the Mountaineers Building, which is located at 7700 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle. Folks wanting to attend the meeting should enter the park at Northeast 74th Street and then take a left.  Note that you can only travel northbound on Sand Point Way NE due to road work.  From Wedgwood, go across NE 70th Street to Sand Point Way NE, turn left and travel northbound to the NE 74th Street entrance of Magnuson Park.

The Washington State Department of Ecology, the Seattle Parks & Recreation office, and the U.S. Navy are hosting the public hearing to review the cleanup proposal.

State Rep. Gerry Pollet, whose 46th Legislative District includes Magnuson Park, pushed for citizens to have a say-so on the proposed strategy for cleaning up the radioactive-contamination.

“A good many citizens contacted me and voiced their concerns about the project,” Pollet said, “and specifically about the lack of public involvement in developing the cleanup plan. It’s great that citizens are finally getting a public forum — although it’s coming, as they say, better late than never.”

A 6 p.m. open house will precede the meeting. Pollet said that the organized portion of the meeting will run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a panel presentation, a Q&A session, and the public hearing. Pollet said concerned park-users and neighbors will have an opportunity to ask questions of the Navy and regulators, with formal public comment following.

“Frankly, I’m astounded that the city of Seattle went along with the Navy in not posting notices to the parents of children using the park that areas of the park and buildings had serious contamination,” said Pollet. “Recently, new areas have been fenced off. The public has a right to know why, and to know about the risks and alternatives for cleanup. With the Department of Ecology stepping in, we have begun to see greater public notice and participation.”

Pollet maintains that Seattle Parks, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Navy “chose to keep this contamination a secret from the public for more than three years, before finally disclosing earlier this year. The Navy announced that it was going to proceed with its own contamination cleanup plan this past May without the public having any opportunity to review and comment on it.”

Since then, Pollet has asked the Washington Department of Ecology to oversee the cleanup. “With Ecology’s oversight, we are already seeing a better job being done to inform and involve the public than the Navy did.”

Citizen groups have joined Pollet in arguing for “a stronger cleanup plan that stays consistent with our state’s cleanup standards. The planning for this work should certainly also follow our state’s rules and regulations for public involvement.

“After three years of secrecy, it is past time for the public’s voice to be heard on a project as serious as the cleanup of radioactive-contamination at Magnuson Park,” he emphasized. “The Navy is proposing a plan that does not meet state standards and does not provide for testing of additional potential radioactive contamination. It is up to us to demand that our state and local officials do the right thing and require the Navy to clean up all of the contamination.”

Seattle Parks discovered the potential for radioactive contamination at Magnuson Park while planning building-renovation in 2009. The Navy says radioactive contamination, including radium, strontium, and cesium (alpha, beta and gamma emitters), stems from Magnuson Park’s use as a naval facility before it was transferred to the city of Seattle.

The Navy is responsible for funding and carrying out the cleanup, which will take place in the northernmost section of Magnuson Park. The cleanup includes parts of Buildings No. 2 and No. 27, including demolition of an auxiliary structure attached to Building No. 27 and areas of soil and drain-line contamination in those areas.

All indications are that Arena Sports and the Magnuson Athletic Club, housed in Building No. 27, are safe for children and adults using the facilities. Areas of Building No. 2, which used to house indoor soccer, have serious contamination problems.

Areas immediately around Building No. 27, where Arena Sports is located, and Buildings No. 2 and No. 12 (behind the Mountaineers Building) are not safe. A highly contaminated storm drain line runs under Building No. 27 to Lake Washington at a heavily used sailing dock and beach. The Navy has not tested either the outfall-area sediments, or the groundwater which is just a few feet below the contaminated-soil areas.

Pollet pointed out that citizen groups and experts have raised deficiencies in the Navy’s cleanup plan encompassing three key issues: authority, cleanup standards, and potential additional contamination.

“Instead of working under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act [MTCA] as required by law,” the Seattle lawmaker said, “the Navy has opted to follow its own rules and do the cleanup on its own terms. The Navy proposes to leave contamination in place at levels 150 times higher than the allowable cancer-risk to exposed children under state standards [the MTCA].”

Pollet has asked the Department of Ecology to require the Navy to test the Lake Washington sediments and beach areas, and groundwater; and, to do remediation work if needed, in a timely manner. Pollet was one of the original authors of the state’s cleanup law, MTCA, and has served on advisory committees which developed Washington’s cleanup standards and processes.

Ecology has extended the comment period again for the proposal to allow time for the public to review some of the necessary documentation, including the “Cleanup Work Plan” and the “Public Participation Plan.” But Pollet said that other required documents, such as an “Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis” or a full environmental-impact statement to evaluate alternatives, are still not available. He said the Navy has stalled in responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the citizens group Heart of America Northwestand Pollet for crucial documents needed to review its cleanup plans and how well it did its initial investigation.

Pollet asserts that the Navy “continues to claim that it can act under a federal process called a ‘Time Critical Removal Action,’ which bypasses preparation of analyses and normal comment periods.

“Federal law, however,” stated Pollet, “directs that our state’s cleanup laws apply and, in any event, that federal agencies may not either skip the preparation of analyses or simply ignore public-participation processes when a cleanup will take more than 120 days or six months, respectively, after the contamination is discovered.”

The comment period now runs until Aug. 31, 2013. The public may send comments

“Although the comment period was extended, the Navy still intended to begin mobilizing to the site the week of July 8,” he pointed out, “despite not having investigated whether the contamination has reached Lake Washington sediments or groundwater, which is a major public concern.”

The proposed plan and other documents are available for review at:

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