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A Big Cleanup

Transforming a 1930s-era gas plant site into something much more useful.



Tim Porter

Are you digging the big tent in downtown San Rafael? Nope, it’s not the circus. But considerable digging is going on. According to PG&E’s Brian Swanson, 35,000 cubic yards of impacted soil that was left behind after the utility’s manufactured gas plant was shut down in 1930 must be carted away. The plant created the gas used to light homes, offices and streets but left coal tar, lampblack and cyanide in the soil. “Now we’re taking away the toxic soil,” says Swanson. The soil goes out at the rate of 35 big rig loads a day, he says, and is transported to either Vacaville or Buttonwillow for disposal. Once the cleanup task is finished — late 2016 or early 2017 — BioMarin will expand its campus with a new high-rise on the site.

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