40 barrels of hazardous materials discovered

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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SEATTLE - Port of Seattle officials made an unexpected discovery at an industrial cleanup site in the South Park community.

Crews were digging when they found 40 barrels of unknown substance they believed to be hazardous, as well as an underground storage tank.

KIRO 7 uncovered a memo to the Port of Seattle's CEO, Tay Yoshitani, asking him for a Declaration of Emergency that would speed up the allocation of funds and the containers' removal.

Billy Kincaid lives across the street from Terminal 117, but said he hadn't heard about the latest find.

"I didn't know anything about that," he said. "Kind of scary. Wow."

The site was home to a former asphalt company and the Port has been cleaning it up.

The barrels were discovered at the south end of the 5.5-acre site, which is next to South Park Marina.

To the west of them, crews found a giant underground storage tank, also with hazardous materials inside, and at the north end of the site, they found pieces of more barrels.

Peter McGraw, Port of Seattle spokesperson, said they surveyed the site by drilling more than 200 holes but never found the containers.

McGraw said the containers were filled with tar made up of chemicals like oil, diesel, and PCBs.

At certain levels and certain lengths of exposure, PCBs can cause health problems like cancer and reproductive damage.

McGraw said the levels of PCBs they found were not high enough to cause what they called "imminent danger" to residents.

But they are dangerous enough that at the site, workers were wearing protective chemical suits. The chemicals can also seep into the soil and harm the Duwamish River next to the site.

"Is it hazardous?" KIRO 7 asked.

"Materials like tar and other chemicals used in the asphalt shingle process are not good for the environment," McGraw said. "We take this very seriously."

The barrels were removed on Monday, but 6,000 gallons from the large underground tank are in two giant containers still on site, waiting to be removed.

Kincaid said he wants to know what's next.

"If they just found those, they haven't even dug over there yet, so who knows what else they're going to find?" he asked.

McGraw said the Port of Seattle now has workers from the removal company staying on site in case they find more unknown containers that need to be removed.