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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pollution Prevention Week: Technical Assistance

Ecology's Dan Ferguson providing technical assistance
at Redhook Brewery in Woodinville.
By Andrew Wineke, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Sept. 15-21 is Pollution Prevention (P2) Week, and we’re taking the week to explore some of the ways Ecology is working to keep our air clean, our waters pure, and our communities safe from toxic chemicals.

Today, we’re looking at Ecology’s technical assistance programs.

Most people think of Ecology as the agency that oversees environmental compliance in the state and monitors the health of our waters, land, and air. And, they’re right! We certainly do all of that. However, there’s also an arm of Ecology that works with manufacturers to help them operate more efficiently.

Ecology engineers and specialists already work with many manufacturers on finding alternatives to hazardous chemicals and searching for ways to reduce waste. The technical assistance team goes farther, looking for leaks in compressed air systems, electrical motors that are running too hot, and even using Lean manufacturing techniques to increase efficiency and reliability. All of these measures have been proven to save companies money.

P2 pays multiple "green" dividends

Since 2008, Ecology has worked with more than 60 manufacturers and the results are pretty great, if we do say so ourselves. Those businesses collectively save more than $6 million a year by reducing their electricity and natural gas bills, toxic chemical use and wastes, and finding new products, markets and customers. In total, those projects are also preventing more than 22,500 metric tons of carbon from entering the atmosphere every year!

How technical assistance works

Earlier this year, an Ecology technical assistance team worked with Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. The team found 48 air leaks in the brewery’s systems that wasted 216,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year, costing about $19,000. The Ecology team also offered advice on ways Redhook could divert some of its spent yeast and grains to local farms, which both reduced the company’s disposal costs and prevented excessive organic material from going into the sewer system, which can lead to surcharges.

When Ecology can help businesses operate more efficiently, they save money, and we all benefit from a cleaner environment.

More information

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pollution Prevention Week: Local Source Control

Local Source Control Specialist Jason Hart
inspects a storm drain in Port Angeles.
By Andrew Wineke, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

Sept. 15-21 is Pollution Prevention Week, and we’re taking the week to explore some of the ways Ecology is working to keep our air clean, our waters pure, and our communities safe from toxic chemicals.

Today, we’re looking at the Local Source Control Partnership.
The Local Source Control Partnership is a joint program between Ecology and a number of local governments across Puget Sound and in the Spokane River watershed. Ecology’s partners include city and county governments and health districts. Through the program, Local Source Control Specialists visit businesses in their communities and provide onsite advice and assistance to help them prevent spills, comply with environmental regulations, and improve waste handling and employee safety.

Because Local Source Control Specialists work in their own communities, they can tailor their focus to local needs. The City of Redmond, for instance, gets its drinking water from a series of shallow wells, so protecting these wellheads from groundwater contamination is vitally important. Other communities may emphasize working with restaurants, or auto repair shops, or drycleaners.

Most small business owners want to do the right thing for the environment and their communities, but they aren’t experts in environmental regulations. A spill or a chemical accident can be expensive for a business, both directly from cleanup costs and fines, and indirectly from the damage to the company’s reputation.

A Local Source Control Specialist’s mission is to help businesses understand regulations and implement best management practices. Although some specialists do have enforcement authority, their goal is to work with business owners to fix issues before they become problems.

A typical visit

A Local Source Control Specialist will walk through a business with the owner or a manager. He or she will look to see that chemicals are properly stored, that secondary containment of projects or wastes is in place to collect spills, that pipes and drains don’t lead to storm sewers, and that containers of hazardous materials are properly labeled.

Specialists can provide spill kits, posters, and sometimes vouchers to buy secondary containment systems to contain potential leaks. The specialist can also help businesses locate recycling resources or find the right place to send hazardous waste.

More information

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tacoma fights air pollution and improves economic potential

By Melanie Forster, Outreach and Education, Air Quality Program

Tacoma has seen its share of major employers leave the city and take their jobs elsewhere. Job growth declined in recent years and employment numbers are still behind 2008* levels.  The reasons a company may choose to relocate are many. But, did you know that air pollution may be one of the reasons companies seek greener pastures elsewhere?

When air quality is poor and doesn’t meet federal standards it can trigger the Environmental Protection Agency to designate an area in a state of nonattainment. In simple terms, that means unable to attain federal air quality standards.

Between 2006 – 2008 Tacoma and Pierce County violated the federal air standard for fine particle pollution, which exposed the public to harmful air pollution, caused economic impacts to businesses and citizens, and resulted in EPA designating the area in a state of nonattainment.

How does nonattainment hurt the economy?

When an area is designated as “nonattainment” the state has to develop a plan to improve the air quality and show it can be maintained. The plan also must include more stringent requirements for Air Operating Permits. These additional requirements can make doing business in the area expensive or even cost prohibitive which may not be attractive to prospective businesses.

Good news for Tacoma

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency worked closely with Ecology and a community task force to reduce harmful particle pollution. Today Tacoma and Pierce County are meeting the federal air quality standards and that’s good news.
Ecology has prepared a plan that shows the improvement in air quality. The plan also outlines how to maintain and continue to decrease fine particle pollution and illustrates how the area will continue to meet the federal standard for the next 10 years.

Ecology will submit the plan to the EPA for approval and if accepted, the area will be re-designated as meeting federal standards (in attainment status) and avoid further action by EPA. This will reduce the more stringent requirements and potentially make the area more alluring to businesses considering opening up in or moving to Tacoma.

Help keep the air clean 

At the heart of the air pollution problem were residents burning wood to heat homes during winter.
While we understand that many residents will continue to use wood stoves and fireplaces there are things you can do to release less pollution into the air:

  • Use a cleaner source of heat. Tacoma/Pierce County has an incentive program to replace older, more polluting woodstoves check it out: Incentive Program
  • Burn properly: When burn bans are NOT in effect, burn only seasoned firewood in a certified stove. Efficient burning means you use less wood and less pollution goes into the air. Watch our Burning Efficiently video.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure your stove burns as cleanly as it was designed to do.
  • When there’s a burn ban, don’t burn.  Sign up for Tacoma Burn Ban Alerts.

Visit Ecology’s website to learn more about fine particle pollution and nonattainment. Or, to review and comment on the plan being submitted to EPA review it on Ecology’s website or in person at Ecology Headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA. You also can request a mailed copy of the plan by calling 360-407-6826.

* Washington RegionalEconomic Analysis Project with data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tackling Toxics: Is your roof shedding chemicals into our lakes, rivers and Puget Sound?

By Alli Kingfisher, Building Materials and Sustainability Specialist, Waste 2 Resources Program

Roofing materials study site.

Ecology scientists Kyle Graunke and Tom Gries collect runoff samples while Ecology Director Maia Bellon looks on.
Here at Ecology, we often talk about non-point pollution that contaminates our waterways.

This is the kind of pollution that is often invisible. It comes from lots people doing lots of things on the land, and from lots of different places. It’s oil from leaking cars, fertilizer and pesticides from our yards, and dog poop from our beloved pets.

When rainwater lands, it picks up and carries pollution into our downstream receiving waters. Essentially, this is the stormwater pollution problem.

Where your roof comes in

But could you have ever guessed that the water that falls on our roofs might carry away trace contaminants to add to the problem of toxics in our lakes, streams and Puget Sound?

This is a question Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program sought to answer with a recent study of roofing materials. The study was funded through a grant from the National Estuary Program to help restore Puget Sound.

The basis for the project started when Ecology’s Puget Sound Toxics Assessment indicated that roofing materials appeared to be sources of chemicals we have found in the Puget Sound basin. The study identified arsenic, copper, cadmium, zinc, and possibly PAHs and phthalates. Different chemicals and metals cause different problems. Many are toxic to fish, invertebrates, and the algae that the fish eat.

Salmon are sensitive

For example, we know that even very low concentrations of copper in the water can reduce an adult salmon’s ability to find its spawning area or for juvenile salmon to detect predators. We also know that zinc can damage fish gills. And in people, other chemicals either cause cancer or mess with our hormones (endocrine distrupters).

We wanted to determine to what extent roofing materials might contribute to the overall problem. And, in an innovative partnership, we collaborated with roofing manufacturers, their associations and other environmental and industry partners to design a rigorous study.

Many types of roofing materials tested

In Roofing Materials Assessment: Investigation of Toxic Chemicals in Roof Runoff, we set up 14 types of roofing materials in a test plot behind the Ecology Lacey headquarters building. The roofing materials represented residential and commercial materials commonly used in our area. When it rained and stormed, we collected water runoff from the roof samples 20 times over a one year period.

Roof types we studied:
  • Asphalt shingle
  • Asphalt shingle with copper-containing granules
  • Copper
  • Manufacturer-painted galvanized steel
  • Concrete tile
  • Wood shingles
  • Manufacturer-treated wood shake
  • Thermoplastic polyoleifn (TPO)
  • Ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM)
  • Zincalume®
  • Built-up roof (BUR) with oxidized asphalt granulated cap sheet
  • Modified BUR with Styrene Butadiene Styrene (SBS) granulated cap sheet
  • Modified BUR with Atactic Polypropylene (APP) granulated cap sheet
The good news was that new asphalt shingles — the most prevalent roofing in Puget Sound — release low concentrations of metals. And in general, roofing materials less than a year old generally release low concentrations of metals.

Some roofing materials released higher concentrations of toxic metals:
  • Treated wood panel released copper and arsenic
  • Copper panel released copper
  • Zincalume® and EPDM panels released zinc
The study has ended for now and the roofing panels have been relocated to the Washington Stormwater Center. We hope in the future they can be used to evaluate the effects of aging and to study other roofing components such as gutters, downspouts, and flashing.

Visit our website and learn more.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Everett Smelter Plume: Soil removal starts at more homes

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

A worker digs up soil from an Everett home's yard.

We're moving dirt again in Everett.

Our cleanup contractor has started work at 19 homes in northeast Everett to remove soil from yards contaminated by fallout from the old Everett Smelter. Clean soil will be brought in, and new sod will be laid.

More to come

That work is expected to carry into early 2015. We're also going to be doing soil testing at about 50 other homes next year, to get ready for cleanup work in coming years.

Contamination from arsenic, lead and other metals was detected in 1990 at the former Everett Smelter property near North Broadway and East Marine View Drive.
Studies also showed that arsenic and lead from smokestack emissions settled onto the ground in the northeastern part of the city. About 500 private residences, three city parks, and commercial and industrial areas were impacted.

See for yourself

Workers lay new sod at an Everett home.
If you're a resident of northeast Everett or you're just curious about how these cleanups work, be sure to check out our photo galleries of past work. The images with this post also provide a glimpse.

We also have plenty of information on how to protect yourself and your family from low-level contaminated soil, and how to work in your garden safely.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Around the Sound: More Anacortes work gearing up

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

The public can comment on Anacortes Port Log Yard cleanup.

Digging starts later this fall at the Former Shell Tank Farm.
We're getting ready to start a new round of Puget Sound Initiative cleanup work in Fidalgo Bay.

Progress is going to be made in the next few months on two cleanup projects, in cooperation with the Port of Anacortes.

Work coming up

Starting Monday, Sept. 8, the public can comment on proposed work at the Anacortes Port Log Yard site around 718 4th St.

The port used the waterfront site at 718 4th St. for log handling from the mid-1960s to about 2004. Operations included log rafting and transferring logs from water to upland sorting and handling areas on the port’s Pier 2. From 1978 to 1979, a company leased the area for similar uses.

After the facility closed in 2004, the port looked at potential environmental impacts from decades of log-handling activities. The investigation found wood debris in sediments above levels considered healthy for marine animals. Investigations from 2008 to 2010 showed the site may contain dioxins and furans above human health risk standards.

So Ecology and the port are working together to address those issues.

Can you dig it?

Next up — what we call the Former Shell Tank Farm site. The property is located between 13th and 14th streets east of Commercial Avenue.

Shell Oil Co. leased the port-owned site and used it is as a bulk fuel storage and distribution facility from 1930 until 1987.

In November, the port plans to dig up and haul away about 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil. New, clean soil will fill in the excavated areas.

More to come

We have more cleanups planned in the future as we continue working with the port, area tribes, other site owners, and stakeholders around Fidalgo Bay.

Stay tuned!

Friday, August 29, 2014

When is it OK to use the water after it’s been treated for weeds?

By Jon Jennings, Water Quality Program

Summer. A time of year when recreational activities are at their peak, whether you fish, swim, water ski, or just dip your feet in the water to cool off. It is also the busiest time of year for aquatic herbicide treatments taking place in lakes around Washington under permits from the Department of Ecology.

Its undoubtedly frustrating — you're looking to cool off from the summer heat, you go to a lake to enjoy the water and you see a sign – the lake, or part of it, has been or is about to be treated with aquatic herbicides to control nuisance or noxious weeds.

When can you go swimming, or let your dog into the water to cool off?

Because we get so many questions like this, we’ve created a new website, Quick Reference Guide: Water Use After Herbicide Treatment.

Here, we provide answers to these questions for you. The new web page summarizes how and when you can use the water after waters have been treated.

In the past, the information available on Ecology’s web has been very technical. This new page aims to provide information about when you can use the water after aquatic herbicide treatment in a user friendly, non-technical way, and provide a consistent message from Ecology. Information about each herbicide addresses five use categories:
  • Potable (drinking) Water Use.
  • Swimming & Water Contact Activities.
  • Fishing.
  • Irrigation & Home Lawn/Garden Use.
  • Livestock/Domestic Animal Water Use.
Each category has an easily identifiable icon that indicates a water-use restriction, advisory, or no restrictions or advisories. Restrictions generally mean that the water should not be used for a specific purpose for a period of time.

Advisories are Ecology’s suggestion that the water not be used for a purpose for a period of time.

We hope you find this information useful.
Learn more about pesticides to control aquatic plants and algae.