Friday, May 26, 2017

Around the Sound: Port Gamble cleanup is a great success!

(This is the first post of a 3-part series on our cleanup, restoration, and preservation efforts at Port Gamble.)

The in-water cleanup of contamination at Port Gamble is now complete!
Port Gamble Bay, on scenic Hood Canal, is a vibrant place for tribal and community members and the numerous visitors who come to see the picturesque historic mill town. Used for recreation and food harvesting, the bay is one of seven Puget Sound Initiative priority bays due, in part, to its high-quality natural resources, such as shellfish, crab, and other fisheries.

Port Gamble Bay is also the traditional home of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe who live on the north side of the bay and is culturally important to several other tribes, as well.

For 142 years, starting in 1853, the area included a sawmill operated by Pope and Talbott. After the mill was shut down in 1995 and removed in 1997, the site’s owner, Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group, leased parts of the property for log sorting, wood chipping, marine research, and other light industrial activities. 

Now, after over ten years of planning and design, the in-water portion of the Port Gamble Bay and Mill cleanup site is cleaned up! The two-year construction effort removed creosote-treated pilings, derelict overwater structures, wood waste, and contaminated sediment harmful to marine life.

This cleanup is one of the largest creosote-treated piling removal projects in Puget Sound! Creosote leaches from treated pilings and structures to surrounding sediment and water. Shellfish – such as mussels and clams that are consumed by humans – and fish –such as herring and bottomfish – accumulate this leached contamination.

Removal of pilings and contaminated sediment improves conditions for humans and the food we eat. Removal of pilings and contaminated sediment improves conditions for humans and the food we eat.

Cleanup by the numbers
The in-water cleanup removed:
  • Over 8,500 creosote-treated pilings
  • 110,000 cubic yards of wood waste and contaminated sediment
  • 55,000 square feet, more than an acre, of overwater and derelict structures
Other cleanup work included
  • Clean capping and habitat materials placed: over 200,000 tons
  • Clean sand placed to accelerate natural recovery: over 113,000 cubic yards
  • Length of shoreline improved along mill site: over 3,400 feet
  • Total area of sediment that was cleaned up: over 106 acres
Cleanup costs
Ecology and Pope Resources/Olympic Property Group each assumed parts of the cleanup costs. In 2007, we provided approximately $1 million to dredge wood waste. And, from 2013 to 2015, we invested over $1.4 million towards cleanup plan oversight and added about $600,000 to remove debris, derelict vessels, and creosote-treated pilings outside of the cleanup area. Since then, Pope Resources has paid over $20 million to complete the baywide cleanup.

These cleanup efforts improved habitat in the bay, improved protection of human health and wildlife, and provided jobs to residents and members of the broader community (estimated 40 full-time jobs during peak construction).

Port Gamble efforts are making a difference
The cleanup is:
  • Creating a healthier and safer environment for fish and shellfish, and those harvesting and eating them.
  • Improving the bay’s aesthetics.
  • Enhancing recreation by making it safer and more enjoyable for kayaking, boating, hiking, biking, and bird watching.
  • Providing jobs to bay residents and the broader community.
  • Supporting future restoration and conservation efforts in the bay.

We will continue to work with Pope Resources to complete the upland cleanup portion of the site. Stayed tuned for the second and third installments of this 3-part series.
  • Part 2: Port Gamble cleanup is catalyst for habit restoration and preservation efforts
  • Part 3: Ongoing and future restoration, redevelopment, and recreation

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tacoma Smelter Plume: New Dirt Alert Videos!

The Tacoma Smelter Plume project has three new Dirt Alert videos that show simple actions you can take to keep you and your family healthy. You can also pick up some great gardening and landscaping tips for around the home.

screen shot of gardening video
Click to go to our YouTube Channel

   These videos provide handy tips on:
  •    Mulching: Ways to cover bare
  •                      patches of soil.
   Gardening: How to garden safely.
  •    Pets: Prevent pets from tracking in
                excess dirt into the home.

What can I do?

Help us spread the word!  Please share, post, and send our videos.
  • Tell your neighbors, friends and family these handy tips.
  • Commit to doing at least one action at your home
  • Visit for more information

The Tacoma Smelter Plume is a 1,000 square-mile-area of arsenic and lead soil contamination that affects King, Pierce, and Thurston Counties.  We partner with local county health departments to manage the health risks from soil contamination.
Not only are these great tips for people who live in the Tacoma Smelter Plume Area, they’re great tips for anyone living in areas with possible soil contamination, like the Everett Smelter Plume and Upper Columbia River/Lake Roosevelt Area. Even if you don’t live in one of these areas, these handy tips will help reduce the dirt and dust in your house, lessening effects of dust-caused illnesses like asthma and allergies. 

If you are an organization or group and would like to partner with Ecology - email to help spread the word about Dirt Alert!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

12 million pounds

Picture a line of garbage trucks starting at Safeco Field in Seattle and extending all the way to the Space Needle - and then imagine that line wrapping around and coming right back.

That's how much litter is dropped on Washington's roads and highways each year: more than 12 million pounds - enough to fill 800 garbage trucks.

It's cigarette butts and fast food wrappers, furniture and mattresses that fell off of trucks, bags of household garbage and jugs of human urine tossed by drivers who just couldn't take the time to pull over and use the facilities.

It is gross.

It is dangerous. Debris from items falling out of trucks and cars leads to 400 accidents a year in Washington.

It is a threat to our health and environment. Burning cigarette butts frequently lead to roadside fires with noxious smoke.

It is completely unnecessary.

This summer, Ecology, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State Patrol are working together to get the word out about litter prevention. We'll be sharing photos and videos of litter hot spots and the issues litter causes, and holding events beginning with "Secure Your Load Day" on June 6.

Why do we talk about litter prevention? It's because we just can't pick up our way out of the problem. The Ecology Youth Corps employs more than 300 teenagers through the summer on roadside litter crews, and sends out adult median crews during the spring and fall. Ecology also provides grants from the state's litter control account to other agencies and local governments for litter pickup. The Department of Transportation has the Adopt-A-Highway program that picks up still more litter, and spends $4 million a year from its maintenance budget on litter pickup.

It's not enough. Combined, all of those programs pick up about 5.3 million pounds of litter a year. More than 12 million pounds of litter a year goes on the roads. The math isn't difficult, and it isn't pretty.

Litter is not just an urban problem, or something that comes from homeless camps. Surveys show that 50 percent of us in Washington litter at least occasionally.

That's why prevention is the key. Litter "happens" because we are too often careless about securing loads or taking an extra bag for trash on our road trip. Litter "happens" because we don't think about where things go after we toss them out a window.

This summer, help us put that 12 million pounds on a diet. Here's how to start:

By Andrew Wineke, Waste 2 Resources

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Comment until June 26 on the Shelton Harbor sediment cleanup

Public meeting set for June 1

The public is invited to comment on the new agreed order and public participation plan for the Shelton Harbor/Oakland Bay cleanup in Mason County. The Bay and Harbor are contaminated from decades of industrial use. Chemicals, wood waste, and waste water from timber and wood product manufacturing industries were all discharged into Oakland Bay, one of the most productive shellfish growing areas in the country.
Shelton Harbor 2007

The public comment period is open from May 25 through June 26. All comments and our responses will be included in the site’s formal record.

Submit comments and any questions to Joyce Mercuri by email or mail them to Ecology’ Southwest Regional Office at PO Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775.

June 1 public meeting

The public is also invited to attend an open house and information session about the new agreement between the Department of Ecology and Simpson Timber Company to begin the cleanup process in Shelton Harbor.

The open house is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1, at the Mason PUD 3 Building, 2621 E. Johns Prairie Rd. The information session will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a Q&A. Ecology staff will be available for one-on-one discussions before and after the meeting

In addition to information about cleanup in Shelton Harbor, the presentation will include a brief description of the planned harbor habitat restoration from a representative of the Squaxin Island Tribe. Visit for more information about the restoration.

We will respond to each written comment we receive during the meeting and throughout the comment period.

What: Public Meeting – Shelton Harbor Cleanup
When: Thursday, June 1
Time: Open House 6:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
                Presentation begins at 7 p.m., with a Q & A session following
Where: Mason PUD 3 Building: 2621 E Johns Prairie Road

Improving the health of Shelton Harbor

Shelton Harbor cleanup area
Previous research in Oakland Bay showed that contamination in the bay is most concentrated in Shelton Harbor. We defined the Shelton Harbor Cleanup Unit [BC(2]to address that contamination.

The new legal agreement with the Simpson Timber Company, called an agreed order, requires Simpson to:

  • Describe the types and extent of contamination in Shelton Harbor through a remedial investigation.
  • Develop and carry out a partial cleanup plan called an interim action.
  • Evaluate cleanup options through a feasibility study.
  • Choose cleanup methods through a draft cleanup plan.

Through this cleanup work we have an opportunity to contribute to the success of a habitat restoration project in Shelton Harbor. We plan to dovetail the first stages of cleanup work with restoration. This will help make both projects more efficient and ensure that the restoration project is built on a foundation that meets state cleanup standards.


Review documents and learn more about the project on our Shelton Harbor Sediments Cleanup webpage. If you’d like to receive email updates, send a request to the Public Involvement Coordinator.

By Dave Bennett, Southwest Region communications

Monday, May 22, 2017

Input wanted: Cleanup options for BNSF Railway Black Tank Property

From May 22 through June 22, we are gathering public comments on the cleanup methods we’re considering for the BNSF Railway Black Tank Property in the Hillyard neighborhood. BNSF and Marathon Oil Company are responsible for cleanup because of their past activities at the site.

The site housed an above-ground black tank that stored petroleum products, primarily the thick, heavy oil known as bunker C for fueling trains. The site also had an above-ground red tank that was used to store and transfer diesel. Areas of soil are contaminated, and a 7-acre plume of petroleum rests on groundwater 170 feet underground.
Cross-section showing petroleum contamination in soil and groundwater
(Courtesy of  ERM)

Excavation with offsite disposal or capping are proposed for contaminated shallow soil. Five groundwater cleanup options are under consideration: biodegradation, bioventing/biosparging, bioventing/biosparging and manual petroleum removal, bioventing/biosparging and steam-enhanced extraction, and smoldering combustion. Bioventing/biosparging is BNSF and Marathon's preferred cleanup option.

These cleanup methods are summarized in the fact sheet and fully described in the remedial investigation and feasibility study report.

When contamination intersects with a freeway

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is building the North Spokane Corridor (NSC) to connect US Highway 395 with Interstate 90 in Spokane. The Hillyard portion of the NSC is within the Black Tank cleanup site. Ecology, BNSF, Marathon, and WSDOT are working together to keep both projects running smoothly.

BNSF and Marathon have committed to a cleanup timeframe of less than 20 years, and WSDOT is planning freeway construction work to accommodate multi-purpose cleanup infrastructure so cleanup options will not be limited by the presence of the NSC.

Educating the public about the Black Tank site and soliciting your input are important steps in the cleanup process. We have been impressed by the outpouring of public interest, which gave us the opportunity to meet with the community about this cleanup site 17 times since late 2015! The cleanup and the freeway design have and will continue to benefit from meaningful public engagement.

It’s all about the life-giving aquifer

Our business is protecting people and the environment. The Spokane-Valley Rathdrum-Prairie Aquifer provides drinking water to nearly 500,000 residents in the Spokane area. Protecting this vital, sole source of drinking water is our top priority for this site. Not only do we care about your health and the environment, but we drink that water, too!

Because the contamination is a heavy oil, it is staying on top of groundwater with very little mixing occurring (imagine oil and vinegar dressing that isn’t shaken up). Because water wells are not located close to the site, drinking water is not affected by the contamination at this time, and we monitor it regularly.

Next steps

Please submit comments to Jeremy Schmidt online, by email, or mail (4601 N. Monroe, Spokane, 99205) by June 22. We will respond to the comments we receive.

Then we’ll use the data gathered thus far and your feedback to draft a cleanup plan. We will hold a public meeting during the comment period for that cleanup plan.

There is no easy answer, but working together, understanding one another’s values and constraints with a willingness to compromise, we will protect people and the environment, preserve our precious drinking water, and successfully build a freeway.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Weigh in on the Volkswagen settlement

We want to know how you think the $112.7 million should be invested

Did you know that Washington is eligible to receive $112.7 million in Volkswagen settlement money to reduce air pollution from transportation? We want to know where you think the
Take the 3-minute survey.
funds should be invested and have opened a survey. Let’s begin with a short primer before you take the survey.

Background: Volkswagen violated the Federal Clean Air Act

Volkswagen installed illegal software on some of its diesel vehicles and later admitted guilt. As a result of the software, affected vehicles emit up to 40 times the permitted levels of nitrogen oxides.

Many people have been confused by all the news about Volkswagen. It might be easiest to think of the settlements as three different buckets:

  • Mitigation Trust Fund: Reducing air pollution from transportation.
  • Zero Emission Vehicle Investment Fund: Investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and outreach to increase awareness of electric vehicles.
  • Consumer Relief: Buy-backs and repairs for owners of the affected vehicles. 

In this blog post, we are focusing on the Mitigation Trust Fund. To learn more about how the mitigation funds can be invested, watch our YouTube video.

What’s happening now: Washington is eligible for $112.7 million

Washington has about 22,000 of the affected vehicles registered in the state and is therefore eligible to receive $112.7 million to reduce air pollution from transportation.

States and tribes are required to develop plans that show how the funds will be used. Ecology is developing the plan for Washington and is asking the public, tribes, local governments, state agencies, the business community, and public interest groups to weigh in on which of the eligible vehicle and equipment categories they think the state should invest in.

How the money can be used

The settlement establishes very specific requirements around the types of projects that states and tribes can fund to lessen the harm caused by the excess emissions.

The money can be used in a variety of ways but must meet the legal requirements of the consent decree. Eligible vehicle and equipment categories are identified in the consent decree. Plans also must consider reducing pollution in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by emissions.

Eligible uses of the funds include repowering or replacing the following with less-polluting options:

  1. Airport ground support equipment
  2. Class 4-7 local trucks
  3. Class 4-8 school/shuttle/transit buses
  4. Class 8 local freight trucks and port drayage trucks
  5. Ferries/tugboats
  6. Forklifts and cargo handling equipment at ports
  7. Freight switcher locomotives
  8. Shorepower for ocean going vessels
  9. Light duty zero emission vehicle supply equipment (limited to 15% of funds)
  10. Matching funds for projects eligible under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA)

We want to know what you think

We want to know which of the above 10 eligible categories you think Washington should include for potential funding in Washington’s mitigation plan. We have launched a survey that gives people, tribes, governments, and groups an opportunity to weigh in. The survey closes 4 p.m. PDT, May 31, 2017. We hope you take the survey!

To learn more about the settlements, visit our website.

By Camille St. Onge, communications

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Finding a balanced approach for aquatic plant management

yellow flag iris in a drainage ditch
Yellow flag iris has made this drainage ditch unusable.
We are now accepting comments on our environmental review of chemicals used to manage aquatic plants and algae covered by two of our general water quality permits. These chemicals are used to manage noxious weeds, nuisance plants, and algae in and around water.

Our draft environmental study reviews eight new chemicals, five alternatives for management, and updates information on other chemicals currently covered under the permits. We're seeking your feedback now through June 6.

Environmental management:
the balancing act

Sometimes, protecting the environment requires us to choose between two imperfect options. Just as you might turn to cold medicine to treat your body when you’re sick, we permit the use of some chemicals to help maintain the health of our waterways.

Noxious weeds are non-native plants that are highly destructive, competitive, or difficult to control. Nuisance plants are native, but they are growing in an area – or density – that causes damage the surrounding environment. These plants choke irrigation ditches, cover our lakes in green slime, and can be a risk to public health. While we work hard to keep chemicals out of Washington waters, we allow them under very specific circumstances to help manage these plants and algae.

Caring for the environment is a delicate balancing act. Our permits require people to use management solutions that have the least environmental impact among reasonably available options. Over the years, we’ve found chemicals sometimes can be the least invasive solution to control the plants and algae that throw off our natural balance.

Evaluating the chemicals covered by our water quality permits

We issue permits that allow the use of chemicals to conditionally treat noxious weeds, native nuisance plants, and algae in and around water. Two of these permits cover the use of chemicals in Washington waters. These are the Aquatic Plant and Algae Management and Aquatic Noxious Weed Control general permits. Our scientific review allows us to determine if we should – or should not – allow specific chemicals under our permits.

For these permits, we’ve evaluated:
Algae under a microscope
Algae under a microscope.
  • Algaecides - A chemical compound that kills or reduces the growth of algae or cyanobacteria (known as toxic algae or blue-green algae).
  • Herbicides - A chemical compound that kills or inhibits the growth of plants.
  • Phosphorus inactivation products - Products used to bind phosphorus in the water column and sediments making it unavailable to aquatic life. Phosphorus is a key ingredient in algae blooms.
These chemicals are only effective at targeted plants and algae. Our permits ensure the chemicals used, and the methods by which they’re applied, are the least impactful to animals and other plants. Permits limit which chemicals are allowed to be used, where they can be used, and who may use them. They also require public notification before a water body is treated, and outline specific rules around the reporting and timing of applying the chemical.

Learn more about invasive plants and the risks they cause to our way of life from the Washington Noxious Weed Control Board.

Why not just remove them by hand?

Non-chemical options are not always the best solution with the least environmental impact. Physical and mechanical methods of removing these plants can be damaging to aquatic habitats. These non-chemical options can have negative effects on water quality, disrupt sediment, and can kill the insects, snails, and fish trapped in the plants. These methods may be so expensive that they’re not really attainable to water managers. In addition, they can lead to a new infestation of noxious weeds by leaving behind plant fragments that then take root in the sediment.

Allowing pesticides to manage Washington waters

The federal Clean Water Act gives Ecology the responsibility to protect state waters. Chemicals used to manage Washington waters must be approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Department of Agriculture. As a third layer of protection, we require anyone wanting to use one of these chemicals to get a water quality permit from us.

Water quality permits are a legal tool to allow – and limit – a discharge of pollution into the water. Each permit is different and sets specific methods for release, monitoring, and mitigating any potential environmental damage.

When used carefully under a water quality permit,
chemicals can help maintain the waters we love.
Photo credit: Tristan Hervouet via freeimages
When used carefully under a water quality permit, chemicals can help manage the water we need for the way we live.

For example, water management protects:
  • Community use
  • Aquatic habitat
  • Human and pet health
  • Agricultural purposes
  • Livestock
  • Commerce and navigation
  • Boating
  • Recreational and commercial fishing
  • And much more
The prolific overpopulation of noxious and nuisance plants threaten the waterways Washingtonians know and love. Toxic algae can be dangerous to people, wildlife, and pets. We carefully consider and evaluate all potential solutions for managing Washington waters. The environmental review we’re currently seeking comments on is part of that ongoing evaluation.

Our current environmental review

We recently completed our draft of a new environmental review for our general permits for managing Washington waters. This review, called a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), helps us determine the potential environmental impact of certain chemicals used to treat unwanted plants and algae. Now, we want your feedback on our draft before we finalize the report.

algae floating in Blue Lake
Variable-leaf milfoil in Blue Lake.
We are always seeking more environmentally-friendly ways to manage Washington waters. This environmental study is pivotal to that search. Our goal is to give better tools to those tasked with managing our waterways. We want solutions that target the unwanted plants and algae, and reduce impacts to neighboring plants and animals. We also want solutions that are effective and have a low risk of unwanted plants developing a resistance to the chemical.

Protecting the health of the native ecosystem is our top priority. New information is learned all the time, so it’s important to continually review what we permit with the best science and technology available.

This environmental review is neither a permit nor a decision, but it will inform decisions we make around aquatic plant management in the future.

Send us your comments

We are now accepting comments on our environmental review of the chemicals used in these two permits. We will take input on the Draft SEIS for Aquatic Plant Management until 5 p.m. on June 6, 2017.

We will also accept comments by mail:

Nathan Lubliner
Washington State Department of Ecology
PO Box 47696
Olympia, WA 98504-7696

By: Jessie Payne and Tim Lewis, Water Quality program communications