Ground-water contamination at an inactive coal and oil gasification plant site, Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington

Water-Resources Investigations Report 88-4224




Gas Works Park, in Seattle, Washington, is located on the site of a coal and oil gasification plant that ceased operation in 1956. During operation, many types of wastes, including coal, tar, and oil, accumulated on site. The park soil is presently (1986) contaminated with compounds such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, trace metals, and cyanide. Analyses of water samples from a network of observation wells in the park indicate that these compounds are also present in the groundwater. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds were identified in groundwater samples in concentrations as large as 200 mg/L. Concentrations of organic compounds were largest where groundwater was in contact with a nonaqueous phase liquid in the soil. Concentrations in groundwater were much smaller where no nonaqueous phase liquid was present, even if the groundwater was in contact with contaminated soils. This condition is attributed to weathering processes at the site, such as dissolution, volatilization, and biodegradation. Soluble, volatile, low-molecular-weight organic compounds are preferentially dissolved from the nonaqueous phase liquid into the groundwater. Where no nonaqueous phase liquid is present, only stained soils containing relatively insoluble, high-molecular-weight compounds remain; therefore, contaminant concentrations in the groundwater are much smaller. Concentrations of organic contaminants in the soils may still remain large. Values of specific conductance were as large as 5,280 microsiemens/cm, well above a background of 242 microsiemens/cm, suggesting large concentrations of minerals in the groundwater. Trace metal concentrations, however , were generally < 0.010 mg/L, and below limits of US EPA drinking water standards. Cyanide was present in groundwater samples from throughout the park, ranging in concentration from 0.01 to 8.6 mg/L. (Author 's abstract)

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Ground-water contamination at an inactive coal and oil gasification plant site, Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
iv, 31 p. :ill. ;28 cm.