SPOKANE – BNSF Railway, Husky, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have agreed on a framework for the environmental cleanup of the "Black Tank" contamination area in northeast Spokane that is within the alignment of the North Spokane Corridor freeway project.
This framework sets the basis for WSDOT to continue design and construction of the North Spokane Corridor freeway in a way that aligns WSDOT's legislative funding and construction schedule with Ecology's obligation to make sure the site is thoroughly cleaned up. It outlines right of way access provisions to the BNSF property needed to keep the freeway profile within the approved project footprint, and very close to WSDOT's original Final Environmental Impact Statement plan.
"BNSF, Husky, Ecology, and WSDOT worked hard over the last 18 months to reach this milestone," said Mike Gribner, WSDOT Eastern Region administrator. "Our team can now concentrate on the design and construction needed to complete this long-awaited facility."
All the entities involved actively worked with the community and heard their desire to avoid an elevated freeway going around the cleanup site. The new framework avoids several community-voiced concerns, including effects to neighborhood aesthetics, the need for more expensive bridges and infrastructure maintenance costs.
"BNSF and Husky are pleased to have reached this framework with WSDOT and Ecology. It allows us to work together in a cooperative manner that is a win-win for the community and all parties involved," said Allen Stegman, General Director of Environmental, BNSF Railway. "We are focused on moving forward with the remediation of the Black Tank site in partnership with our stakeholders and look forward to continued collaboration."
The framework sets an achievable restoration timeframe of 20 years for the Black Tank site and includes performance expectations and metrics. It lays the foundation for pilot tests that will allow for final cleanup decisions based on performance at this site, including a "back-up" approach if the initial approach does not perform.
The intersection of the Black Tank site and the community-preferred alignment of the North Spokane Corridor generated many public comments. It took hard work and flexibility from all parties to create the desired outcomes for the public — access to a new freeway and a clean environment. This was always the intention of all involved in the discussions.
"Cleaning up the Black Tank site remains our top priority, and we're committed to ensuring a safe groundwater supply for Spokane," said Jim Pendowski, Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program manager. "We're pleased that by working with WSDOT, Husky, and BNSF, we're on the path toward the community-preferred freeway alignment and achieving an effective cleanup."
Ecology will continue to share information about the Black Tank site and how the cleanup will be completed concurrently with freeway construction.