Michael Harthorne
Kate Martin, a Greenwood citizen activist, warns of potential environmental damage from the new Fred Meyer development at a March 11 meeting.

New Fred Meyer gives residents a sinking feeling

Presentations by an architect, hydrogeologist and an engineer at a March 11 meeting did little to quell neighbors' fears that the construction of the new Greenwood Fred Meyer would have dire consequences on surrounding properties.

Half of the site for the new Fred Meyer at 100 N.W. 85th St. is located on a peat bog, one of the largest in the Seattle area.

GeoEngineers' Michael Kenrick, working for Fred Meyer, said it is important to not disturb peat because it is sensitive and compressible. If you take water out of the peat, it will shrink, leading to settling buildings, he said.

"Nobody wants their building to settle because it causes so much damage," Kenrick said. "It basically condemns the building."

The March 11 meeting was a chance for the Fred Meyer development team to explain how it is dealing with soil and groundwater issues on the site and for the Seattle Department of Planning and Development to received public feedback before deciding on whether an Environmental Impact Study is warranted for the project.

Kenrick said they drilled 30 monitoring wells – a large number for the size of the project – to get information about groundwater and the bog, which is made of glacial till, silt and peat.

The wells allowed the developers to slightly alter the mapping of the bog's boundary within the site and determined that groundwater is at 255 feet above sea level at its highest point.

Barghausen Consulting Engineers' Hal Grubb, also working for Fred Meyer, said the site is currently almost entirely covered by impervious surface. Storm water is collected from the Fred Meyer's roof and parking lot and rerouted to the city's system and into the Puget Sound, he said.

In order to better deal with runoff, the new Fred Meyer project proposes two areas that will introduce water back into the ground in a measured way, Grubb said.

One of these areas will be below the parking garage on the northeast corner of the site. It will put as much water into the ground as the ground can handle, and the rest will be sent to an underground vault to be put into the city's system to prevent overflow, Grubb said.

The second area will be along Third Avenue Northwest where the soils are good for introducing water into the ground, he said. That area will also be hooked up to the underground vault.

According to plans, these two areas will mostly deal with water coming off the roofs of the parking garage and residential units. Runoff from the majority of the site will be fed directly to the vault.

Many of the Greenwood residents at the meeting felt the plans for the new Fred Meyer development – a 170,000-square-foot, mostly underground Fred Meyer, 26,300 square feet of additional retail, 250 residential units and a three-level parking garage – will disrupt the bog, causing sinking and damage in the surrounding neighborhood.

Kate Martin, a citizen activist in Greenwood, said she became interested in the peat bog when the new Safeway was built and caused her house to start sinking.

"Greenwood has been sinking and will continue to sink," she said.

Peat does not accept new water, and the Fred Meyer development is being enabled by legislative loopholes and a lack of good science, Martin said.

She said the project should be redesigned to give it a smaller footprint and not sink it into the bog.

Another neighborhood resident wanted to know what the city will do to help her when the new Fred Meyer causes her house across the street to sink and forces her to move out of the city.

One resident, who said his yard was already sinking, asked what assurances the Fred Meyer development team could give them that, unlike Safeway, they wouldn't cause damage to neighboring property.

Kenrick said there is an ordinance and requirements that have been put in place since Safeway to prevent damage to nearby property.

The Fred Meyer project is taking a conservative approach to groundwater and will not be removing it from the site, he said.

Grubb said the existing site has no protection against flooding. The new development's underground vault will release less water into the city's system than the current site and could also contain a treatment system to filter out harmful chemicals, he said.

"If you do things right on the project, there should be no offsite impacts," Kenrick said.

A show of hands asked for by one resident indicated that a majority of neighbors present would like the project to undergo an Environmental Impact Study.

The Department of Planning and Development will decide whether to ask for the study or issue a Determination of Non Significance before the project is given a Master Use Permit to get underway.

Click here for more information on the design of the new Greenwood Fred Meyer.

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New Fred Meyer - MUST have an Impact Study

I never imagined Greenwood, or this area of it, was a peat bog! Given comments presented in the article, I believe the project must have an Environmental Impact Study done; to not do it would be criminal.

Over 15 years ago I helped a friend plant a tree in her front yard on the east, 'hill' side of Palatine Ave. near 65th Street. Lo and behold, after digging down about two feet we hit EMPTINESS - at least another foot or two of SPACE below the hole we'd dug. Very, very scary. I don't recall how we 'refilled' this hole, but we did plant the tree. And somehow it survived - it roots must've grown laterally, avoiding the void below.

Nothing happened to her property (it didn't cave in) while she lived there another 4-5 years, and I see it's still standing on the same block. But I absolutely believe it's only a matter of time - perhaps hastened by projects such as this if scientifically proven measures are not taken to eliminate any possibility of further sinking - before many homes and other structures suffer permanent damage.