Port moves closer to final stage of Kaiser Aluminum site cleanup

A decade after the Port of Tacoma purchased the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter plant located on the city’s tide flats, an effort to cleanup the 96-acre site is reaching its final stages.

Last week, port commissioners authorized setting aside an additional $5.1 million toward the environmental cleanup of the last two of six areas identified by the Port of Tacoma and the Washington State Department of Ecology as needing remediation. So far, the port has demolished and removed more than 70 vacant buildings, including two massive domes that were used for nearly 45 years to store bauxite alumina, and a nearly 40-year-old, 500-foot-tall smokestack.

The site has a long history in Tacoma. The federal government began aluminum production there in 1942 during World War Two. It was later purchased by Kaiser Aluminum Corporation and employed as many as 350 workers. By 2002, however, the company was bankrupt. The port purchased the property a year later for an initial cash payment of $12.1 million.

According to Port of Tacoma environmental project manager Bill Evans, the port has spent approximately $27.2 million toward purchasing the property and cleaning it up over the last decade. He estimates the property, which is located at 3400 Taylor Way, approximately four miles east of downtown Tacoma in the tide flats industrial area and adjacent to the Blair Waterway, is worth about $12 per square foot, or $50 million, today. “It was a good choice to take on this property and it will certainly pay off for the tax payers of Pierce County,” Evans told Port commissioners during a meeting on April 18.

Targa Sound Terminal plans to build a petroleum terminal on the site.

The funding authorized last week will pay to remove and dispose of asphalt and concrete pavements; re-use excavated and pavement materials; excavate existing soil and waste and segregating contaminated materials for disposal to approved disposal sites; establish and maintain site decontamination areas for soil processing; implement stormwater best management practices during construction; backfill and grade the surface to conform with future rail and road corridors; and provide final closure reports and surveys.

The port is expected to beginning the bidding process for the project next month and a awarded a contract in June. The project is expected to be completed by the end of October.

A decade after the Port of Tacoma purchased the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter plant, an effort to clean up the 96-acre site is reaching its final stages. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)