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Pacific Sound Resources (PSR) was a wood preserving facility located in King County, Washington, on the southern shore of Elliott Bay near the city of Seattle. Wood preserving activities have occurred on the PSR property since 1909 and have resulted in releases of contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pentachlorophenol (PCP), and metal solutions into on-site surface soil, subsurface soil, groundwater, and Elliott Bay sediments.

The PSR site is presently considered an indeterminate public health hazard because existing environmental data is not sufficient to document human exposure. There is potential for human exposure to have occurred in the past, to be presently occurring, or to occur in the future, to contaminant levels which may be expected to result in adverse health effects. Contaminants of concern at the PSR site include: arsenic, PAHs, lead, mercury, and pentachlorophenol.

Populations which may have been impacted by PSR in the past or may be presently impacted, include on-site workers, trespassers, recreational and subsistence fishermen and family members consuming seafood from the PSR study area. Populations which may be impacted in the future include remedial workers involved in site cleanup activities, recreational fishermen, and recreational beach users if shoreline access to a beach is created within the PSR study area.

Existing environmental data gaps for PSR site include incomplete data on contamination of on-site soils, groundwater, and PSR study area seafood. Groundwater usage and the number of potential supply wells in the PSR upland area is unknown. The extent of contamination at the PSR site will be further evaluated during a RI/FS which will be supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Community concerns were expressed about potential health hazards associated with inhalation of airborne dust during removal and cleanup actions at the PSR site. Ambient air monitoring data from maximum predicted exposure locations is necessary to adequately assess possible human exposure from inhalation of contaminated airborne dust during removal or cleanup actions.

The Washington Department of Health (WDOH) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) recommend the following for the PSR site: further characterize the extent of contamination present in upland surface soils, subsurface soils, and groundwater; identify groundwater usage within the PSR study area; determine if seafood consumption is occurring within the PSR study area; identify the number of residents living within one mile of the site; provide personal protective equipment and training to on-site remedial workers; and perform ambient air monitoring on-site during removal actions which disturb contaminated soil.

This preliminary public health assessment has been evaluated by the ATSDR Health Activities Recommendation Panel for follow-up health actions. No actions are recommended at this time.

The PSR wood preserving facility discontinued plant operations in August 1994. The PSR site is currently being managed using the Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model. Time critical removal actions planned for the PSR site include implementation of site security measures, plant demolition, and limited excavation of contaminated source areas. Non-time critical activities will likely include soil removal and product recovery, excavation and capping of contaminated soils, and groundwater source control actions.

This preliminary public health assessment evaluation is based upon existing data. In order to adequately assess the public health implications of the PSR site, after environmental data from the RI/FS becomes available, this site should have a more complete toxicological evaluation performed using current environmental data.

WDOH will re-evaluate the PSR site as additional data becomes available.


This document is a Preliminary Public Health Assessment prepared for the Pacific Sound Resources Superfund site by the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) in cooperation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The purpose of this document is to evaluate data currently available for Pacific Sound Resources to determine the public health significance of this site.

A. Site Description and History

The Pacific Sound Resources (PSR) site is located at 2801 South Florida Street in Seattle, King County, Washington. The PSR site is situated on the southern shore of Elliott Bay in West Seattle (Figures 1, 2). Wood preserving activities have occurred on-site since 1909. PSR consists of approximately 25 acres of upland area located in a subtidal zone which has been filled with porous sand fill material to a depth of approximately 20 feet (1).

Historical wood preserving operations which have occurred on-site since 1909 have resulted in releases of hazardous contaminants into on-site soils, groundwater, and marine sediments. Contaminant releases have occurred due to spills, leaks, and on-site waste disposal in former and present process, drip, and storage areas (1). Primary wood preserving chemicals used on-site include: creosote, creosote mixed with petroleum, zinc meta-arsenic, chromated zinc chloride, wolman salts (fluoride, chromium, arsenic and phenol), pentachlorophenol (PCP), chemonite (copper, arsenic, and zinc salt solution), Pyresote (zinc chloride, boric acid, ammonium sulfate, dichromate) (1).

PSR is divided in half by Southwest Florida street (Figure 3). Primary PSR treatment operations were located north of Southwest Florida street. The northern area of PSR consists of a main shed, transfer table, nine retorts, areas used for tank storage of wood preservatives, and process wastewater operations (1). The southern area of the PSR property contains a main office, kiln building, and product receiving building. Property south of S.W. Florida street is used for pole and lumber storage.

The PSR site was proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List (NPL) in May 1993 due to the potential public health threat from contaminated soils and groundwater, as well as the danger to aquatic life present in Elliott Bay from contaminated nearshore sediments (9). The EPA issued a cleanup order for the PSR site under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Some cleanup activities have occurred on the PSR site. During 1990 approximately 500 cubic yards of contaminated soil were excavated beneath and around an on-site transfer table and in Tank Farm area 2 and 3, and approximately 28,000 square feet of the transfer table pit and tank farm areas were lined with concrete (1).

The existing PSR property was purchased from the Wyckoff Company by Pacific Sound Resources in 1990. The Port of Seattle is planning to purchase the PSR property. PSR is currently considered part of the Port of Seattle's Southwest Harbor Cleanup and Redevelopment Project (SWHP) cargo terminal expansion project. The SWHP project involves redeveloping and enlarging an existing container shipping terminal. The SWHP is currently being managed under the following nine separate project areas (Figure 4):

  • Burlington Northern Railroad Yard
  • Salmon Bay Steel (North of SW Spokane Street)
  • Port of Seattle (Former CEM Property)
  • Pacific Sound Resources Uplands (Former West Seattle Wyckoff)
  • Spokane Street Property
  • Lockheed Aquatic Area
  • Lockheed Uplands
  • Pacific Sound Resources Aquatic Area
  • Existing Terminal 5

Property surrounding the PSR site is primarily zoned for industrial use with manufacturing and shipping operations, while property northwest of PSR along Harbor Avenue consists of residential and commercial land use (1). Elliott Bay marks the northern boundary of PSR. A former ship building operation (Lockheed Corporation) presently used for container storage is located east of PSR. A barge/rail loading operation and a metal scrap processing facility are located on approximately 20 acres of property southwest of PSR. A former landfill (West Seattle Landfill) which operated from 1939 to 1965 and received slag from a steel mill, wood waste, and municipal waste is located adjacent to PSR (1). A steel mill (Seattle Steel) is located to the south.

Wood preserving operations at the PSR site ceased in August 1994. The PSR site is being managed using EPA's Superfund Accelerated Cleanup Model (SACM). SACM early actions which may occur at the PSR site include time-critical and non-time-critical removal activities (1). Time-critical activities include site security, site stabilization (removal of stored wood-treating chemicals and residual sludge), plant demolition, and limited excavation of contaminant source areas (1). Non-time-critical activities include source control, excavation of contaminated source soils, and groundwater source control (1). A scope of work and Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) workplan is presently being prepared for the PSR site under EPA supervision.

B. Site Visit

A site visit was conducted to the PSR site on March 3, 1994. Individuals involved in the site visit included Trace Warner and Jack Morris of the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH), the PSR plant superintendent, and a representative from Remedial Technologies Incorporated. During the site visit, the PSR plant superintendent provided an overview of site activities as well as a description of principal on-site structures. Site visit observations were made from both the northern and southern end of the PSR site property.

The following observations were made during the site visit:

  • Access to the site is restricted on the east and west side of the property; however, the south end of the property is not entirely secured. The site is accessible to trespassers from Florida Street and to water traffic from Elliott Bay.
  • No shoreline/boat fishing or water related recreational activities were observed within the PSR study area.
  • Standing water was observed around tank area two, tank area three, treated wood drip area, and treated wood storage area.
  • Assorted wood debris was observed in the treated wood drip area north of retorts 3-7.
  • Although a sign was observed on the north shore of the site which read "DANGER Hazardous Materials - Contaminated Soils - KEEP AWAY." There were no signs observed along the Elliott Bay shoreline which is the northern boundary of the site to inform individuals that consumption of seafood from this area may be harmful to health.

C. Demographics, Land Use and Natural Resources Use


The population of the city of Seattle in 1980 was over 493,000 and over 516,000 in 1990. King county had a population of over 1,250,000 in 1980 and 1,500,000 in 1990. These census figures represent an increase of 4.5 percent and 18 percent over the 1980 city of Seattle and King county population figures.

There were about 20 individuals working on the PSR site during wood preserving operations. Upland areas located south and west of the PSR site consist of residential neighborhoods of West Seattle and Pigeon Point. Clusters of single family residences exist along the west side of Harbor Avenue as well as near the intersection of SW Admiral Way and Harbor Avenue Southwest (3).

Land Use

The PSR property is currently zoned for port-industrial use. The PSR study area (including Elliott Bay harbor area) is located within a highly industrialized area. Elliott Bay is the fourth largest container port on the west coast (4). A federally designated anchorage area is immediately north of the PSR study area. Future land use plans for the PSR site include redevelopment into a terminal seaport. Downtown Seattle is located just over 2.5 miles northeast of the PSR site.

Activities surrounding the PSR study have included timber processing, commodities shipping, and ship repair. The West Seattle landfill operated in this area for over 30 years and discontinued operation in 1969 (3). Property surrounding the PSR site was also used for scrap metal and slag storage (3).

Natural Resource Use

Non-anadromous marine fish in the shoreline areas of Elliott Bay include estuarine and marine species. Primary freshwater-estuarine species are cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, bass, bluegill, suckers, and sunfish. Marine species include English sole, starry flounder, dover sole, flathead sole, pacific tomcod, and walleye pollack (3). Elliott Bay harbor area within the PSR study area may be considered the usual and accustomed fishing areas of the Muckleshoot and Suquamish Indian Tribes.

Elliott Bay water related recreational activities include sail boating, scuba diving, fishing, jet skiing, canoeing, and kayaking. Shoreline recreation revolves around the Duwamish Trail (a paved waterfront trail) which begins at the corner of Harbor Avenue SW and SW Florida Street. The trail follows the shoreline north along the east side of Harbor Avenue SW. Recreational uses of the trail include walking, jogging, bicycling, accessing the shoreline and fishing (3).

In 1982 the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, in cooperation with the Seattle King County Department of Health, issued a health advisory recommending that individuals not fish or gather shellfish from Elliott Bay industrial areas due to a lack of toxicological information on chemical contaminants and the uncertainty about possible adverse health effects occurring from ingestion of contaminated tissue. The advisory specifically targeted bottom fish such as English sole and cod which have the highest potential for exposure to industrial chemical wastes. The advisory indicated there was no cause for concern about consumption of migratory fish such as salmon and steelhead.

Although a health advisory was issued warning against consumption of bottomfish and shellfish harvested from Elliott Bay, recreational harvest continues to occur. Sport fishing for salmon, steelhead, flounder, ling cod, rockfish, and hake is common along much of the Elliott Bay shoreline where public access is available (3). The WDOH Shellfish Program has classified Elliott Bay as "prohibited" for the commercial harvest of shellfish. The amount of bottomfish or shellfish harvested from the PSR study area is unknown.

D. Health Outcome Data

This section identifies potential sources of health outcome data available. The usefulness of the health outcome data is evaluated in the Public Health Implications section of this document. Using state and federal databases, it may be possible to determine whether the occurrence of certain health outcomes are greater than expected in the populations surrounding the PSR site.

The WDOH has an Office of Vital Statistics and an Office of Registries. The Cancer Surveillance System (CSS) for the state is maintained by the Division of Public Health Sciences of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The CSS is presently a contractor to the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute.

The Vital Statistics Department collects information on the number of deaths, births, fetal deaths, marriages, and divorces for Washington State. Variables included in this database are geographic location (city, county, town), age, sex, race, address, cause of death, birth weight, gestational age, and birth defects.

The CSS database is the central repository for all newly diagnosed malignancies (except nonmelanotic skin cancers) which occur in residents of thirteen counties of northwest-Washington State. The population covered is almost one million and includes five Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas (SMSA), the Seattle-Everett area (King and Snohomish counties), Tacoma (Pierce County), Kitsap, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. The population-based cancer surveillance system monitors the incidence and mortality of specific cancers over time. The variables collected in this database are designed to permit the detection of differential risks or cancer by geographic region, age, race, sex, marital status, social security number, occupation, type of cancer, extent of disease, treatment, hospital identification, and other demographic, data.

The Washington Birth Defects Registry is a registry of children with serious birth defects diagnosed before their first birthdays. The database contains information by major birth defect classifications and by demographic factors: county of residence, sex, race, address, and mother's occupation, smoking history, and age. As of August 1991, information was available for the entire state for the years 1986-1989.


Community health concerns are gathered to determine if specific health effects are being experienced by individuals who live or work near the site. Information provided by the public is helpful in determining how people may have been or might become exposed to hazardous substances in the environment.

The Seattle King County Health Department (SKCHD) indicated they were not aware of any health complaints expressed by citizens about the PSR site. As part of the Community Relations Plan (CRP), EPA conducted interviews with concerned citizens during April 1994. The following health related complaints were recorded during citizen interviews:

  1. A resident living near PSR with children is concerned about airborne particles. The resident is currently exposed to odors from PSR and is concerned about health impacts. The resident also expressed concern about possible health impacts once removals begin.
  2. A resident living up the hill from PSR suffers from asthma and is concerned about the health risk of dust disturbance which will occur during site removal and cleanup actions.

These concerns are addressed in the Community Health Concerns Evaluation portion of the Public Health Implications section of this preliminary public health assessment.

The PSR preliminary public health assessment was made available for public review and comment from July 26, 1994 through August 26, 1994. Copies of the preliminary public health assessment were sent to the West Seattle branch of the Seattle Public Library, and to the EPA Regional Office Library. Fact sheets announcing the public review and comment period were mailed to interested parties comprised of local, state, and federal agency representatives as well as the Port of Seattle. The purpose of the public review and comment period was to provide the public and other interested parties an opportunity to review and provide comments on the PSR preliminary public health assessment prior to finalizing the document.

One set of public comments were submitted in writing to the Washington Department of Health during the public comment period. The public comments were editorial in nature and have been incorporated into the PSR public health assessment.

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