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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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tackling Toxics: How do we really know a chemical is safe?

By Andrew Wineke, communications, and Alex Stone, chemist, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

We all want safer products. No one ever argues in favor of putting hormone disruptors in children’s toys or substances toxic to fish in tires.

But when an inventor or manufacturer is designing a product, how do they really know what chemical ingredients are safe? Asbestos was considered a safer alternative when it was introduced. And “safe” compared to what? Pesticides are not supposed to be safe – for bugs. And how do they prove it?

Chemical hazard assessments

This is where chemical hazard assessments come in. A chemical hazard assessment is a tool to help organizations evaluate a chemical’s impact on human health and the environment. The key component of a chemical hazard assessment is that it enables the user to compare chemicals against each other on a level playing field.

The GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals method, for instance, ranks a chemical on 18 different potential impacts on human health and the environment. Running a GreenScreen assessment will tell you things like whether a given chemical can cause cancer, or if it’s flammable, or whether it’s safe for fish.

Several major manufacturers and retailers use GreenScreen or similar systems to screen the ingredients that go into their products. These companies go to their suppliers and say, “show us that your chemical is safe.”

However, a full GreenScreen report can run more than 20 pages – just for a single chemical. Sometimes that’s too much, particularly for smaller businesses or if a company is just doing a preliminary assessment.

Quick Chemical Assessment Tool

To meet this need, we developed a simpler method, the Quick Chemical Assessment Tool, or QCAT. It’s based on GreenScreen and uses the same databases of chemical hazards, but it looks at a smaller set of potential health and environmental endpoints. A QCAT report is about five pages long.

Still too much? There are a number of chemical hazard databases, such as Pharos, that are inexpensive to use and will give a quick rundown on potential problems in just a few seconds.

Want to learn more?

We are offering a free, day-long class, “An Introduction to Chemical Hazard Assessments,” Sept. 25 in Lacey. You can register here, or download this brochure for more information. Other QCAT classes will be offered in 2015.

If you aren’t ready to take a class or need help right away, we can often conduct QCATs for Washington businesses, although some limitations apply. Contact greenchemistry@ecy.wa.gov to inquire.

Visit Ecology's website for more about assessing the safety of chemical alternatives.

Stay informed about our efforts to reduce the use of toxic chemicals by following our Tackling Toxics series right here on the ECOconnect blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Work begins to clean up contamination on yards in Tacoma

By Jill Jacobson, Outreach Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Construction fencing and stormwater protection measures are installed before cleanup begins.

Equipment is used to replace contaminated soil with new soil.

What do most people picture when they think of a toxic cleanup site?

Maybe an old rundown factory or rusted metal drums. Not someone's yard.
On Monday, we started cleaning up contaminated soil in 49 yards in Tacoma.

This work is part of Ecology's Residential Yard Sampling and Cleanup Program. The program cleans up arsenic and lead from the former Asarco copper smelter in Tacoma.

Orange fencing, hard hats, construction equipment...

On each site, we bring equipment to the yard and put up orange construction fencing (see photo right). Then we dig out the top 12 to 18 inches of soil and replace it with new soil. Last, we restore the landscaping and maintain the new lawn for 60 days.

Follow our yard cleanup work in 2014...

Questions about the yard cleanup work?

Please call the project hotline at (360) 407-7688
and press 2 for Tacoma Smelter Plume
or email me at Jill.Jacobson@ecy.wa.gov.

Tackling Toxics: Searching for safer products?

The EPA can help

By Andrew Wineke, communications, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

One of the simplest things we can do to protect the environment, both at home and at our workplaces, is to use safer chemicals in our cleaning supplies and other household products.

But how do you know what “safer” is? Do you look for “natural” on the label? Should it say “eco” in the name? There are more than 300 different “green” certifications. Which one should you trust?

If you really want to pick the safest products possible, a great place to start is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment program.

Design for the Environment is a voluntary product labeling program that works with manufacturers to determine that the chemicals used in a product are the very safest available. Today, more than 2,500 products ranging from toilet bowl cleaners to bilge tank treatments have been evaluated through the Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling Program.

The Design for the Environment label means that each ingredient has been screened for potential adverse human or environmental health effects and that the product contains ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class. You can find a list of all 2,500 products, organized by category, or you can look for the Design for the Environment logo on the products you already buy.

Want to know more?

At 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, our Safer Chemistry Challenge is hosting a free, one-hour webinar with the EPA’s Bridget Williams for a deeper look at the Design for the Environment program.

Williams will discuss how the EPA evaluates products, how businesses can get their products certified, how the program works with industry to identify safer chemicals, and answer your questions. Register here.

Stay informed about our efforts to reduce the use of toxic chemicals by following our Tackling Toxics series right here on the ECOconnect blog.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Eyes Over Puget Sound for August 18

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, Environmental Assessment Program

If you haven’t gotten up to the San Juans this summer, Eyes Over Puget Sound can take you there.

Our August cover shows a bird’s eye view of Sucia Island — looking like a giant downward-facing hand.

We saw an intense yellow-green phytoplankton bloom inside Fossil and Mud bays in this photo taken at 11:22 a.m. last Monday.

Sunshine and warm temperatures have returned after last week’s intense rain. 

We observed that the Puyallup and Nisqually rivers are flowing high. Red-brown blooms and numerous patches of jellyfish remain strong in South Sound, Sinclair and Dyes Inlets, and in Bellingham Bay. And we saw brown-green blooms in Whidbey Basin.

Macro-algae surface debris is very high in South and Central Sound. Hood Canal remains cooler but Puget Sound-wide temperatures are now warmer and less salty.

Sea surface temperatures are above 15 °C, conditions favorable for some pathogens, and harmful algae blooms.
Read about super colonies of by-the-wind sailors washing up on our shores. They are called Vellela vellela.

Eyes Over Puget Sound combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, en route ferry data between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and on our website.

Sign up to receive email notifications about the latest Eyes Over Puget Sound by subscribing to Ecology’s email listserv.

See the August issue of Eyes Over Puget Sound.

Everett park cleanup delayed; meeting canceled

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

An Aug. 26 meeting in Everett to talk about a planned park cleanup has been canceled because the city has decided to delay the project.

City officials expect the cleanup at American Legion Memorial Park and Everett Arboretum to take place in the second half of 2015.

Ecology and parks staff will reevaluate the project and identify the park areas that are most in need of cleanup, such as high-traffic areas and locations with higher levels of arsenic contamination.

Delaying the park project doesn't affect this season's separate soil-removal work at residential properties in Everett. That work will begin in the next couple of weeks at properties along 6th, 7th and 8th streets between Wayne and Winton Avenues north of Broadway.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fecal Matters: Beach reopened at Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park in Kitsap County, WA

BEACH Program Update

On August 16, 2014, Kitsap County Public Health District opened the beach at Eagle Harbor Waterfront Park on Bainbridge Island, WA for water recreation.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections, and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Visit the BEACH website to find the latest results for these and other saltwater beaches: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv.

Debby Sargeant is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6139 or debby.sargeant@ecy.wa.gov for questions.