From Creosote to Kids
A former Superfund site is transformed to include a recreational
By Mark Hinshaw
On an unusually warm and sunny late-winter afternoon, I strolled
along the West Seattle waterfront and gazed at the seductive skyline
of downtown Seattle in the distance. Listening to waves lap along
the shoreline and watching toddlers playing in the sand, I had trouble
remembering that not too many years ago, enormous logs were being
dipped in tar on this very spot.
Andrew Buchanan, Subtle
For over a hundred years, the Wykoff plant brought in long Douglas
fir timbers and infused them with creosote for utility poles and
piles. Railroad ties were treated similarly to slow down their natural
rotting process. In a sense, much of the old growth forests was
cut down, covered in creosote, and put right back into the land
Of course, we all now know the environmental consequences of that
long-standing practice. By the late twentieth century, the land
around the Wykoff factory—known as Terminal 5 of the Port
District of Seattle—was completely poisoned. When it was designated
as a Superfund site in 1986, the area was a total mess. Industrial
detritus was piled all about, rail lines wove through the area,
and decrepit docks littered the water’s edge. An errant teenager
would occasionally penetrate the perimeter fencing, but it was hardly
a place that anyone would want to venture into.
Finally the port began a major cleanup operation. It coupled the
environmental mitigation project with an effort to vastly improve
its rail, truck, and barge shipping operations. Seattle-based KPFF
Consulting Engineers put together a team of engineers, biologists,
hydrologists, geotechnical specialists, landscape architects, and
architects to completely redesign the terminal. The result is nothing
less than spectacular.
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