Unocal station in limbo of pollution

"We used to find ourselves mightily annoyed by the vacant Unocal lot at the corner of Winslow Way and Highway 305.Back in the day, when mounds of polluted dirt still blighted the grounds, and before local youngsters adorned the bland fence with whimsical murals - come to think of it, before there was a fence at all - the property was Winslow's number one eyesore. Yet it was the first site greeting visitors coming off the ferry.Having been straightened up a bit over the years by fuel company contractors, the property has slipped into a period of more benign neglect. You can at least walk past it without being disgusted, or really noticing it at all.But we were still disappointed to learn this week that, a full decade since the demolition of the gas station that used to sit there, Unocal has no plans to address the site's extensive contamination. Too expensive, they say.Unfortunately, as long as soil cleanup there is tied to the property's dubious prospects for sale and development, the chances increase that old gasoline and other contaminants will seep away into the ravine or nearby Eagle Harbor. It's a scenario that has repeated itself on countless properties used for sale and transfer of toxic substances, before the age of leak-proof tanks and other environmental safeguards.We hope we don't see that day, but it might at least bring state ecology officials back into play with the possibility of a forced cleanup, similar to what we've seen at the old Vincent Road dump site.And let's face it - Unocal has had plenty of time to roll in a backhoe and get something done. At this rate, we'll all be driving solar-power cars around the moon by the time the property is cleaned up.While we'd never suggest that the city take on any liability before a cleanup is completed, we'd still like to see the site retired for some sort of public use - a pocket park maybe. Time was when the site was seen as ideal for a visitor center, an idea that went to the wayside with time and the failure to see the land cleansed. Perhaps if city officials can ever cudgel the ferry system into buying the ravine property as mitigation for future terminal improvements - another plan that has long enjoyed public support, but no action - the Unocal site could be thrown into the mix.If there is an upside, we suppose that pollution or no, the property does represent a respite of sorts for a fast-changing island.A vacant lot that isn't being built on. What a concept."

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