Pritchard Park, WA is just one illustration of efforts across the U.S. to put contaminated sites back to use for communities — as parks, playing fields, workplaces, homes, shopping centers, even renewable energy projects.

When Charles Schmid first moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1970, the Wyckoff Company was still stripping bark from timber and treating the logs with creosote, an oily liquid processed from coal tar. The waterfront factory had used similar wood-preservation methods dating back to the early 1900s, when it began producing materials for some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects, including the Panama Canal, Great Northern Railroad and San Francisco’s wharfs.

In fact, Schmid used to pick up free bark from Wyckoff. “Everything seemed fine,” he recalls. But by the 1980s, he began to learn about contamination at and around the site — pools of creosote, fish with lesions, shellfish too toxic to eat. The emerging news spurred him and other members of this island community, a short ferry ride from Seattle, to push for cleanup.

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