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Grant to help City study impact of chemical plume

The City of Auburn recently accepted a $186,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology to study a toxic chemical plume originating at a site operated by The Boeing Co.

The offending chemical, TCE, also known as trichloroethylene, is a chlorinated hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. Boeing used it in the 1960s, '70s and '80s to degrease and clean airplane parts. TCEs are known to be carcinogenic.

"The plume is migrating toward Auburn, and the grant allows the City to study how fast it's moving and the best ways to mitigate it," said Councilmember John Holman. "The good news is we've got a state department stepping up to help study it."

The plume is also known to have moved south, under the city of Algona. In 2013, the DOE began working to find out the extent of the contaminated groundwater there.

Under the supervision of the state Department of Ecology (DOE), Boeing this past June sank 12 monitoring wells and 14 probes in northeast Algona to confirm the location and determine the impact of groundwater contamination by TCE on that city.

While the DOE is directing all such investigations in Algona, Boeing has hired a contractor to do the actual work and is paying for the studies

The studies are one step toward determining the location and size of the underground contamination, which includes solvent chemicals, primarily TCE and vinyl chloride (VC).

All information gleaned should help to plan the cleanup of the groundwater contamination, to decide on the next steps to take the investigation, and to provide information the state must have to assess potential health risks.

People with questions or comments may contact Ecology at boeingauburnsite@ecy.wa.gov. Ecology also has a local phone line, 253-219-7645.

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