The section of the former Whitney building along the Greenway has has been fenced off (Photo: Jordan Potier).
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Toxic Remediation & Demolition of Former Marchant Site Begins

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The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has begun work on the former Marchant/Whitney property at 5679 Horton Street.

Work at the 1.75-acre site will be done in four phases over the next several years. Their work will address soil, vapor and groundwater contamination on the site from over 80 years of industrial use.

c1920 aerial view photo of the Marchant factory with Stanford Avenue in the foreground.

From approximately 1910 until 1959, the property was used by the Marchant Calculating Machine Company who manufactured mechanical calculating machines.

Marchant was acquired by Smith Corona in 1958 eventually vacating the property and consolidating operations at their San Pablo Avenue office on the Berkeley border.

Whitney Research Tool Company, who produced machine valves and other parts, took over the site in the mid 1960s and operated at the site until the late 1990s.

During these decades of industrial use, spillage, leaks and disposal of chlorinated solvents, petroleum-based compounds and other cancer-causing chemicals contaminated the property and groundwater requiring extensive toxic remediation.

The city’s redevelopment agency acquired the property in 1999 to facilitate the connection of Horton St. to Landregan between Stanford and Powell Streets. The structure was also used by the city’s Public Works Department as their corporate yard. The building was vacated in 2012 after the discovery of contaminants.

The city engaged in litigation with the conglomerate of companies of Whitney referred to collectively as “WSL” (Whitney, Swagelok & Lozick) as well as Hanson Building Materials who took over Smith Corona in 1986 (Now “Heidelberg Materials”). The litigants eventually agreed to the terms of a settlement agreement which includes a lump sum cash payment to the Emeryville Successor Agency of $33 million and potentially another $7 million from Hanson.

A DTSC map shows where soil will be extracted from the site.

This remediation finally kicked off this week with Phase I including:

  • Demolishing the building and foundation and transporting materials to a disposal facility
  • Excavating contaminated soil 5-10 feet below ground and disposal at permitted facilities
  • Backfilling excavations with clean soil and paving the Site

Several safety measures will be implemented including the work zones being fenced off from the public. A protective noise barrier will put in place to reduce noise impacts, including drilling, from neighboring buildings.

In addition, air monitoring of work areas and the site perimeter will be conducted. Work stoppage will be initiated when sustained winds exceed 20 mph or gusts above 25 mph.

As many as 160 trucks are expected to enter/exit the site per day. Traffic flaggers will manage vehicle and pedestrian traffic for trucks entering and exiting the site. The beds of these trucks will be tarped off and have their tires cleaned to prevent airborne dust before leaving the site.

View of the Marchant/Whitney site from Horton Street (Photo: Jordan Potier).

The cost of the cleanup work and monitoring needed to meet applicable state and federal standards has been estimated to cost between $47 and $88 million.

This Phase I of the cleanup is expected to be completed by June 2025. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, excluding holidays.

Phase II, which includes the extraction of groundwater and VOCs, is expected to take an additional two years. Phase III may take as long as thirty years for cleanup of groundwater for residual contaminants. The fourth and final phase involving monitoring contaminants in the groundwater may continue for an indefinite period.

Additional information and updates can be viewed on the DTSC website.

Inquiries about the project can be directed to:

  • Tom Price – Project Manager, (510) 540-3811 or thomas.price@dtsc.ca.gov
  • James Gambrell – Public Participation Specialist, (510) 529-7199 or james.gambrell@dtsc.ca.gov
  • Russ Edmondson – Public Information Officer (for media inquiries), (916) 323-3372 or russ.edmondson@dtsc.ca.gov

A virtual meeting was held in 2022 that provided the community an opportunity to weigh in on the process.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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