BNSF Track Switching Facility
500 Main St, Wishram, WA 98673

Aerial View of the BNSF Track Switching Facility - Photo courtesy of Google Earth
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The Site is located on the northern shoreline of the Columbia River, approximately 0.75 miles south of Wishram Heights.  In the early 1900s, the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railway began developing the site by constructing an Engine House, turntable, and several smaller outbuildings. The site activities included engine and railcar repairs, fueling and watering locomotives, and railcar switching. A railcar repair shop, an oil-unloading trough and associated connections and piping, a diesel fueling island, a concrete sump, and aboveground storage tanks (ASTs)and underground storage tanks (USTs) were added over the years. The ASTs and USTs had contained heavy oil, diesel fuels and heating oil.

Until the mid-1950s, steam locomotives were fueled using Bunker C heavy oil, then locomotives were transitioned over to diesel. Diesel fueling continued at the site until the late 1970s. The storage tanks were removed when fueling no longer occurred. By the 1980s, the repair shop and Engine House were removed as they were no longer needed.

In January 2002, BNSF "discovered" a 30,000-gallon, single-walled, steel underground storage tank (UST) used to supply heating oil to the boiler house. The tank was installed in the early 1970s and used until approximately 1982. After the boiler house was no longer used by BNSF, the building was converted to a parking garage for the Wishram Volunteer Fire Department ambulance.

Also in January 2002, a site assessment was conducted for BNSF by a consultant.  Soil samples taken during the site assessment phase documented the presence of diesel and heavy oil at concentrations above state cleanup levels. A site visit in April 2007 visually confirmed that the site was primarily covered with coarse gravels. No noticeable odors of petroleum products were noted during a thorough walk-around of the property border, other than what would be expected in a railroad yard.

Following the initial discovery of release from the 30,000 gallon UST, other areas were assessed since a number of USTs and ASTs had existed in the railyard. Areas where the fueling distribution piping systems were located were also assessed as well as various process areas such as the former Engine House. The site is defined by the extent of
contamination throughout the BNSF property and adjoining properties.

With the completion of the The Dalles Dam in 1957, the water level rose approximately 40 feet and engulfed a portion of the shoreline. The in-water portion of the shoreline is a fishing area and part of the treaty with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and tribal members still exercise the treaty fishing rights in the area near the railyard. Contamination was also discovered in the sediments in the river.

In 1970, a merger between several railroads, including the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railway created the Burlington Northern Railroad, now know as BNSF Railway Company (BNSF). BNSF currently owns the site.

The Site is currently on Ecology’s Hazardous Sites List with a ranking of “3”.  Sites on the Hazardous Sites List are a priority for Ecology, and have completed a Site Hazard Assessment (SHA). A SHA provides information about the environmental risk of the Site. Risk is based on the amount of contaminants, how toxic they are, and how easily they can come in contact with people and the environment. Sites are ranked relative to each other on a scale of “1” to “5”; with a rank of “5” being the lowest.

BNSF Track Swithing Facility - View from the hill above the site. Photo by Ecology
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The UST, which contained diesel and heavy oil at a depth of approximately two inches, was removed in April 2002. Following the UST removal, approximately 750 tons of petroleum contaminated soil was excavated down to 16 feet depth (bedrock), and transported offsite for disposal at the Rabanco Landfill in Roosevelt, Washington. Clean overburden and imported pit-run were then placed into the completed excavation in two-foot thick lifts and compacted.

Prior to backfilling, 30 confirmation samples were collected from the excavation sidewalls; none were collected from the bedrock at the bottom.  Sample results showed a thin layer of soil containing diesel and heavy oil at concentrations above cleanup levels remained in place just above bedrock to the north, east, and south of the excavated area.

In October and November 2005, addition remedial activities took place. Analytical results from confirmation samples show that the majority of the petroleum contaminated soils were removed, with only small, localized residual hydrocarbon concentrations left where further excavation could not be conducted safely. A summary of onsite groundwater monitoring well sample results document concentrations of both diesel-range and gasoline range hydrocarbons, as well as arsenic, above cleanup levels. 

In October 2015, Ecology entered into an Agreed Order with Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway, the potentially liable person at the Site, requiring the completion of a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). Cleanup in other areas of the property depend on the results of the RI/FS. The primary focus is recovery or treatment of remaining diesel and heavy oil in the ground.


Map showing site location as Klickitat County, WA SITE INFORMATION


View Electronic Documents

Cleanup Site Details Report

Facility Site ID: # 1625461

Cleanup Site ID: 230

Wishram, Klickitat County

Status: Cleanup Started   Get definitions of Status terminology

John Mefford
Project Manager
(509) 454-7836

Document Repositories:

Central Regional Office
1250 W Alder St
Union Gap, 98903-0009