SPD officer says homeless camp sweep exposed him to toxins, files $10 million claim

File image from this summer shows lot along Seattle's Denver Ave. South where PCBs were later discovered. The lot has since been paved over. (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE - A police officer has filed a $10 million claim against the city, saying he got sick after being assigned to clean-up a homeless camp. The officer said he was exposed to toxic chemicals and now there are growing concerns for other city workers who were involved in the effort.

It is paved over with asphalt now but this past summer, fencing and warning signs sealed off a lot along Denver Avenue S where dangerous levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) had been discovered.

“This is a very, very serious environmental hazard," said Erin Goodman, the executive director of the SODO Business Improvement Area.

Goodman raised the alarm because of the RV campers who had been stockpiling garbage in the area.

A city team came in to clear it out, and according to a new legal filing, that's when Seattle Police Officer Timothy Gifford was exposed to carcinogenic chemicals.

“I believe we are at the point where the city should consider these as hazardous sites and prepare their employees appropriately," Goodman said.

Gifford claims he developed Type 2 diabetes working in that contamination because he wasn't given protective equipment or training. His tort claim said at least 59 city employees may have been exposed.

“I think we need to accept the fact that the unsheltered encampments and RV encampments are unsafe and unsanitary for all,” Goodman said.

The court filings by Gifford also contend that prior to sweeping the camp, the city never adequately evaluated the site. It goes on to say that city leaders should have known the dangers because they sued the chemical manufacturer three years ago due to the PCB contamination in the area.

A Seattle city spokesperson said they do not comment on open claims or pending litigation.

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