We are Earth Doctors: Gas Works Park

    Gas Works Park occupies premium waterfront property on the north side of Lake Union in Seattle, Washington. Today, it’s a local landmark, but 100 years ago the site of this city park looked very different. Over the years, the park was home to a manufactured gas plant and tar refinery, briquette manufacturing facility, chemical manufacturer and municipal landfill. Before environmental regulations and policies were introduced in the 1970s, there was less awareness of the effects that industrial operations had on the environment, and standard practices were much different than today. Unfortunately, as a result of operating these facilities and others, environmental contaminants were released into Lake Union and the local soil and groundwater.

    For many years, GeoEngineers has worked closely with the City of Seattle, Washington State Department of Ecology, Environmental Protection Agency, Puget Sound Energy and private consulting firms to identify the extent of contamination on the site and prepare a plan to repair the environmental damage. The site is extremely complicated, with many historical sources of contamination.

    Despite the ongoing challenges, much of the historical contamination at Gas Works Park has already been corrected. Almost all the upland area of the site has been remediated through a variety of methods, including “caps” to protect the public from contact with soil, removing and safely disposing of contaminated material, adding clean soil, treating groundwater and placing gravel to control erosion. 

    Environmental scientists have pieced together a complex picture of subsurface contamination and groundwater movement. Over the past 40 years, scientists have completed more than 80 drilling investigations and collected more than 1,500 groundwater, soil and sediment samples. This wealth of data is revealing the full extent of environmental impact, verifying that remediation methods are working, and identifying what still needs to be done. GeoEngineers’ team has completed the latest phase of data collection as a part of a remedial investigation but is continuing to monitor groundwater quality as the project progresses.

    The data from the remedial investigation sets up the next phase of the project—a feasibility study to determine the most effective cleanup strategies to target the remaining contamination in the sediment of Lake Union. GeoEngineers’ scientists will analyze the effectiveness and cost of potential remediation technologies targeting impacted sediment in northern Lake Union and within Gas Works Park. Ultimately, the team will recommend a combination of strategies for these remaining areas of sediment. Thanks to the hard work of GeoEngineers and many others, this former industrial site is transforming into a beautiful and environmentally-healthy public space for the people of Seattle.

    What is an Earth Doctor?

    At GeoEngineers, we care about the health of our communities and approach our work from a holistic viewpoint. We’re dedicated to sustainable human development and the many projects that make it possible for us to live, work and play in our modern world. Every park, bridge, highway, high rise, energy transmission line, hydroelectric or water treatment facility we work on is a critical part of our lives. But we want more than just human development. We advocate for balance. We design for sustainability. We want our communities to thrive, and that means being more than just earth engineers—we need to be earth doctors.

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