Rail - Vancouver - Rail Bypass and W. 39th Street Bridge - Environmental Cleanup

Former contaminated soils site near Vancouver rail yard

Contaminated soil cleanup completed in June 2011 on a piece of land in Vancouver, Wash., to make way for a new bypass track at the BNSF Railway yard. The new track is a key piece in a package of projects aimed at improving Amtrak Cascades service reliability by reducing conflicts between passenger trains and freight trains.

Contaminated soil was present at the 2.5 acre site near the Vancouver rail yard and W. Fourth Plain Blvd. WSDOT needed a portion of this property for its project and chose to purchase the parcel and remove all contaminated soil. Removing all the contaminated soil was deemed more cost-effective than cleaning the small portion needed, then building a specially sealed retaining wall more than 10 feet high and 800 feet long; leaving the remainder of the contamination in place.

What are the benefits of the cleanup?
The local community benefits by having the contaminated soil removed completely, eliminating potentially hazardous risks from further contamination or leaching.

What contaminants were in the soil?
The upper five to eight feet was mostly contaminated with petroleum; with some areas also contaminated by heavy metals like lead, mercury and chromium and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The site was previously a wrecking yard.

How much material was removed?
The soil contaminated only with petroleum was approximately 26,000 cubic yards - enough to cover a football field in over 12 feet of dirt.

The soil contaminated with heavy metals and PCBs amounted to about 200 cubic yards, equal to about 17 dump truck loads.

Where did the contaminated soil go?
It took more than 1,850 20-foot garbage shipping containers to move the petroleum-contaminated soil by rail to landfills in both Washington and South Dakota.

The more heavily contaminated soil required special handling and was shipped to a certified landfill near Arlington, Oregon.

How much did the cleanup cost?
Excavating and shipping the contaminated soil cost about $1 million.

How can I get more information?

WSDOT Rail Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407
E-mail: rail@wsdot.wa.gov