Funding would help determine damage in downtown Tigard on Main, Burnham and Commercial streets

The city of Tigard is looking to clean up downtown. Literally.

The City Council approved a plan last week to apply for a $25,000 grant to clean up areas near Fanno Creek that were contaminated by former property owners. These areas are known as brownfields.

The contaminants vary depending on the property and include gasoline, insecticides and other pollutants, said Sean Farrelly, project manager for the city’s downtown redevelopment efforts.

One site is The Ballroom Dance Company, Farrelly said.

Today, it’s home to the largest ballroom dance studio in the country. But for 30 years, the building was home to the Farmcraft company, which made and packaged agricultural chemicals, including pesticides and insecticides. The chemicals were mixed together with talc or diesel fuel at the site and loaded onto railroad cars, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

In the years since Farmcraft left, testing has shown pesticides in soil around the site and volatile organic compounds in the groundwater, DEQ officials reported in an environmental cleanup database on the agency's website.

“They didn’t always have the strict rules for disposal of that stuff,” Farrelly said. “Some of that stuff has stuck around in the ground.”

The former Farmcraft building isn’t alone, Farrelly said. Gasoline has been found in the groundwater at the former General Telephone & Electronics corporation on Southwest Burnham Street.

“(The gasoline) basically went into a culvert under Burnham (Street) and impacted the Fanno Creek area,” Farrelly said.

The grant funding — which would come from the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program — would help city officials identify other contaminated sites and help to restore those properties for future development.

“We want to put the urban renewal agency in a position to be a partner to help solve these problems,” Farrelly said. “If someone has contamination on their property, that’s a scary thing, and the costs to cleaning it up could be high. But now the city could provide resources, or at the very least information, if a property owner wants to redevelop the property. The (urban renewal) agency will be able to point them in the right direction.”

Farrelly said the city also plans to apply for a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency later this fall to help assess environmental contamination.

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