Submitted by Michelle S. Mood.
The community might not be entirely aware of a proposed set of warehouses in Pierce County that could radically intensify traffic congestion, air pollution and health inequities. I’ve been following most closely the mega-warehouse planned for South Tacoma just south of TPU – a 2.5 million square foot monstrosity that will pave over 125 acres of abandoned grassland, forest, and wetlands. The land was bought in 2021 by Chicago-based Bridge Industrial and the permits have been working their way through the City of Tacoma Planning and Development Services office this year. So far the PDS has not made any determination about the proposed project, just repeatedly asking for resubmission of materials rather than requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, apparently believing all the environmental effects could be mitigated.
In response to the initial permit notice, in April thirty organizations and several hundred citizen sent letters requesting an EIS or denying the project outright. Some of the concern was related to the proposed extra 5,000 vehicle trips a day. Some was related to the location, not only on top of the last significant green space in South Tacoma, but also on top of the South Tacoma aquifer, part of the South Tacoma Groundwater protection area and used yearly as Tacoma’s backup water source. The location in the poorest section of Tacoma already suffering a lot of air pollution and health problems also raised issues of environmental racism and health inequity.
EarthJustice wrote a 300-page comment that used industry reference manuals to doublecheck Bridge Industrial’s estimated additional vehicle trips, and concluded that 10-12,000 new vehicle trips a day were more likely. The city has not responded to that data. An independent hydrogeologist has evaluated the materials and determined no appropriate data has been collected to allow anyone to calculate or know the effects of paving 125 acres over the South Tacoma aquifer. With climate change accelerating, that’s like playing Russian roulette with our future sustainability. Additionally, the four wetlands and the creek connect to Chambers Creek and empty into Puget Sound – 2022 findings show that the Pacific Northwest salmon die-off is connected to tire materials washed from roads. This could be devastating to our ecosystem.
In September of this year, the US EPA and WA Departments of Ecology and of Health and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department have all asked Tacoma City Planning and Development Services office to conduct a Health Impact Assessment of this project so as to evaluate health and environmental impacts on South Tacoma. They also requested environmental justice and community inclusion be front and center in handling this project, while the Department of Ecology noted the Health Equity and Accountability Law (HEAL) is now a statutory obligation. Why hasn’t our city responded to these requests? Detailed questions to PDS about why the Lead Agency has not requested compliance with HEAL, a Health Impact Assessment, environmental justice and community inclusion have not yet been answered.
We’re all waiting to see what the city will decide about this life-changing project, and I hope you will help spread the word to your community. Traffic burdens will increase in not just South Tacoma but all the surrounding communities and all the way up to Port Tacoma and Port Seattle. Air pollution will be intensified. Environmental sustainability may be jeopardized. Ecosystems may be permanently changed. Stay informed, stay engaged, and let your local leaders know your concerns.
For more information, the public has free access to all permit materials on PDS permit application website, searching under the land use permit number LU21-0125 (at https://aca-prod.accela.com/TACOMA/Default.aspx). You can also find additional information in blogs by Michelle Mood on 350Tacoma.org