Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let's talk science: Elements of fire suppression at Pasco Landfill

By Brook Beeler, communication manager, Eastern Regional Office

Nota: Está disponible en español

Since June, contractors have taken several measures to extinguish a fire in a localized portion of the Pasco Sanitary Landfill in Franklin County. Underground temperature probes and gas monitors were installed to gather details about the area of the fire. Significant progress to extinguish the underground fire has been made although data suggests it isn’t completely out yet.

Extinguishing a fire is no easy task. Tack on that this particular fire is underground and in an old landfill with a variety of wastes currently being treated to avoid further groundwater contamination. Several methods and approaches can be used. Each has pros and cons including cost, worker safety and effectiveness.

The project team and parties responsible for cleanup of the landfill thoughtfully and carefully weighed options to suppress the fire and adequately protect human health and safety and the environment.

Science of fire

Fire is a chain reaction. The reaction continues in cycle as long as fuel, oxygen, and heat are interacting to create combustion. In order to stop combustion, one of the components of the fire triangle must be removed.

Fire is a chain reaction that requires fuel, oxygen and heat.

Let’s use a campfire as an example. Clean, dry wood provides fuel and it should be stacked in a way that allows air to pass through. Once you add and sustain heat, the triangle is completed and a chain reaction begins.

Smokey the Bear taught us well. We can put out our campfire by applying water, which removes heat from the chain reaction faster than the fire can produce it. Or we can smother the fire with something that doesn’t burn, like soil, which prevents oxygen from reaching the fuel (wood) and heat (flame). Either would effectively break the fire triangle’s chain reaction.


Managing the Pasco Landfill underground fire
In the case of the underground fire at the Pasco Landfill, careful consideration for fire suppression was made because of the location and source the fuel. The fire is currently localized in a portion of the landfill that contains household garbage and construction debris. Heat is part of the natural cycle at landfills – it’s produced by bacteria that breaks down and decomposes the trash.

So how is oxygen reaching the waste and completing the fire triangle underground? We can’t be completely sure, but it could have been from air pockets in the landfill and cracking in the protective soil cover that contractors observed on site.



Adding to the complexity of the underground fire is treatment of an adjacent section of the landfill containing drums of hazardous waste. This area, known as Zone A, has a system in place that uses technology to draw air through the soil preventing pollution from reaching groundwater and building up in the soil.  As a precaution, the operations of the treatment system were modified.


The right elements for the job

Water wasn’t the right choice for many reasons. First and foremost it would have required digging up the smoldering waste to add water. Excavation could also potentially add more oxygen to the fire triangle and fuel the chain reaction. All parties involved prefer to avoid excavation in order to extinguish the fire if possible. But most importantly using water to extinguish the fire could potentially carry additional pollution down through the soil and into groundwater – the very groundwater we are trying to protect with the treatment system in Zone A.

Working closely with technical experts, including local fire departments, Ecology and the parties responsible for cleanup chose to smother the underground fire with an engineered cover, soil, and by injecting liquid carbon dioxide. The liquid carbon dioxide cools the burning materials and displaces oxygen from the areas actively burning underground.

Temperature probes inserted in and around the underground fire are showing results. Much of the area has cooled, indicating the fire is subsiding. There is still a small hot spot, but we are continuing to monitor the situation and act responsively to manage and extinguish the fire.

There is no immediate threat to people living near the landfill or to workers and businesses in the area based on our current knowledge.

Landfill cleanup progress

Cleanup activities have been ongoing at the closed landfill site for many years. The public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on additional cleanup options for the site in 2015.


Stay current on the fire suppression efforts and cleanup progress at our Pasco Sanitary Landfill webpage.

Hablemos ciencia: Elementos para extinguir un fuego

Note: This blog post is also available in English

Desde junio, contratistas han estado tomando varias medidas para extinguir un fuego localizado en una sección pequeña del Relleno Sanitario de Pasco en el Condado de Franklin.  Sondas subterráneas para medir la temperatura y monitores de gas fueron instalados para obtener detalles acerca del área del fuego.  Un progreso significante para extinguir el fuego subterráneo ha sido logrado, aunque los datos sugieren que este todavía no ha sido extinguido completamente.

Extinguir un fuego no es una tarea fácil.  Añada a ello que este fuego en particular es subterráneo y en un relleno sanitario viejo que contiene una variedad de desechos y que actualmente está siendo tratado para evitar contaminación adicional del agua subterránea.  Varios métodos y enfoques pueden ser usados.  Cada uno tiene cosas a favor y en contra, considerando costo, seguridad laboral y efectividad.

El equipo de trabajo y los grupos responsables por la limpieza del relleno sanitario en forma considerada y cuidadosa estudiaron todas las opciones para extinguir el fuego y proteger la salud humana y la seguridad del medio ambiente en forma adecuada. 

La ciencia del fuego


El fuego es una reacción en cadena.  La reacción continúa en ciclos mientras que el combustible, oxigeno, y temperaturas altas interactúan para crear combustión.  Para que la combustión termine, uno de los componentes del triangulo de fuego debe ser eliminado.



HEAT: TEMPERATURAS ALTAS
Chemical Chain Reaction: Reacción Química en Cadena
OXYGEN: OXÍGENO
FUEL: COMBUSTIBLE








Subtitulo: El fuego es una reacción en cadena que requiere combustible, oxígeno y temperaturas altas.

Usemos una fogata como ejemplo.  Madera seca y limpia provee combustible y debe ser apilada de tal forma que permita que el aire pase.  Una vez que usted agrega y mantiene una temperatura alta, el triángulo se completa y la reacción en cadena comienza.     

El Oso Smokey nos educó bien.  Podemos apagar nuestra fogata usando agua, la cual elimina la temperatura alta de la reacción en cadena en forma más rápida de la que el fuego puede producirla.  O podemos extinguir el fuego con algo que no se quema, como tierra, lo cual previene que el oxígeno entre en contacto con el combustible (madera) y la temperatura alta (llama).  Cualquiera de las dos efectivamente rompería la reacción en cadena del triángulo de fuego.

Tratando el fuego subterráneo en el Relleno Sanitario de Pasco


En el caso del fuego subterráneo en el Relleno Sanitario de Pasco, la extinción del fuego se consideró con detenimiento debido a la localización y la fuente del combustible.  En este momento, el fuego se localiza en una porción del relleno sanitario que contiene desechos domésticos y residuos de construcción.  Temperaturas altas son parte del ciclo natural en los rellenos sanitarios – se producen por bacterias que rompen y descomponen la basura.   

¿Entonces, como está el oxígeno entrando en contacto con los desperdicios y completando el triangulo de fuego por debajo del suelo?  No estamos completamente seguros, pero podría ser por burbujas de aire en el relleno sanitario y grietas en la cubierta protectora de suelo que contratistas observaron en el sitio.



Añadiendo a la complejidad del fuego subterráneo es el tratamiento de una sección adyacente del relleno sanitario que contiene barriles de desechos peligrosos.  Esta área, conocida como Zona A, tiene un sistema que usa tecnología para extraer aire a través del suelo, de esta forma previniendo que la contaminación entre en el agua subterránea y que se acumule en el suelo.   Como una precaución, el funcionamiento del sistema de tratamiento fue modificado. 

Los elementos correctos para el trabajo


Agua no fue la opción correcta por muchas razones.  Ante todo, hubiera requerido la excavación de los desechos que arden para echar agua.  También es probable, que al excavar se podría agregar más oxígeno al triángulo de fuego y alimentar la reacción en cadena.  Todos los grupos participantes prefieren evitar la excavación con el fin de extinguir el fuego si es posible.  Pero lo que es más importante es que es probable que al usar agua para extinguir el fuego se podrían contaminar más el suelo y el agua subterránea  - la misma agua subterránea que estamos tratando de proteger con el sistema de tratamiento en la Zona A.    

Trabajando conjuntamente con técnicos expertos, incluyendo departamentos de bomberos del área local, Ecología y los grupos responsables de la limpieza eligieron extinguir el fuego subterráneo con una cubierta de suelo diseñada por ingenieros, e inyectando dióxido de carbono líquido.  El dióxido de carbono líquido enfría los materiales que arden y desplaza el oxígeno de las áreas subterráneas que están ardiendo.   

Se han mostrado resultados por medio de las sondas para medir temperatura, que fueron insertadas en y alrededor del fuego subterráneo.   La mayoría del área se ha enfriado, lo que indica que el fuego esta extinguiéndose.  Todavía hay un pequeño lugar caliente, pero continuamos el monitoreo de la situación y actuamos de manera responsable para tratar y extinguir el fuego. 

No hay una amenaza inmediata a las personas que viven cerca del relleno sanitario o a los trabajadores y negocios en el área, basándonos en nuestro conocimiento actual. 

Progreso de la limpieza del relleno sanitario


Actividades de limpieza han sido continuas en el sitio cerrado del relleno sanitario por muchos años.  El público tendrá una oportunidad de dar su opinión sobre las opciones de limpieza adicionales para el sitio en el 2015.


Manténgase al corriente sobre los esfuerzos para extinguir el fuego y la limpieza en progreso en nuestro  sitio de internet del Relleno Sanitario de Pasco.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tacoma Smelter Plume: What's under the new grass at Vassault Park in Tacoma?

By Jill Reitz, Cleanup Outreach Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Over the past few months, you may have noticed orange fences, trucks, new dirt, and new grass at Vassault Park in Tacoma. Ecology has been cleaning up soil contamination at playfields in the park as part of the ongoing work to clean up arsenic and lead. These toxic metals were carried by the wind from the former Asarco copper smelter and contaminated soil over a large area of Puget Sound.

1. Contractors prepare the site for digging.

The Soil Safety Program provides free soil sampling and cleanup for play areas at schools, childcares, parks and camps. Vassault Park is the largest cleanup in the program, at eight acres. Cleanup happened quickly, driven by the need to plant and establish grass before the winter weather.


2. Contractors remove the top 6 to 12 inches of soil.
Over the years, Metro Parks Tacoma has also experienced drainage issues in the playfields at the park. Both Ecology and Metro Parks were glad to break ground this summer on this $2.1 million joint project to replace soils and fix the drainage problems.

 

How did Ecology clean up the 8 acres of soil in just a few months?

To give you an idea of how we completed the cleanup work, here's what happened from June to November 2014:

3. Contractors replace the soil with clean soil.
1) In June 2014, contractors did the following to prepare the site for digging:
  • Installed a chain link fence and high-visibility orange fence around the playfields. The fences marked the closed areas and kept park visitors out of the construction zones.
  • Brought equipment to the site and set up a staging area. 
  • Posted signs to inform park visitors of the construction schedule for the park.
4. Metro Parks Tacoma fixes past drainage issues.
2) From July to mid-August, contractors dug up the top 6 to 12 inches of contaminated soil and hauled it to a landfill. Since the cleanup splanned 8 acres, the contractors removed the soil one quadrant at a time. This photo shows the park after excavation and before now soil was backfilled.

3) Next, the contractors began backfilling the excavated areas with new soil. The top soil they used for the playfields was a mix of sand and compost. This mix is best for sports fields because it helps with drainage and is easy to maintain.

They also created a slight slope from the center out to the edges of the fields. The purpose of this is to drain water off the fields during the wet season.

4) To fix past drainage problems, Metro Parks Tacoma coordinated improvements on the east side of the playfield. After backfilling the topsoil, they excavated trenches and installed a network of drainage pipes every five feet. These pipes are buried 12 inches deep to avoid accidental damage.

5. Landscapers restore the lawn and playfields.
5) Finally, landscapers restored the lawn throughout the park. To make sure there's good grass coverage for sports, they completed the following steps:
  • Drill seeding the lawn, a process that uses a small tractor that tows a planter to plant individual seeds to a shallow depth in the topsoil. This process provides an even seed distribution and thicker grass layer.
  • Installing sod around the sprinkler heads and in drainage swells.
  • Watering and fertilizing the new lawn.

Final steps through May 2015

  • Fences will remain up around the new grass until May 2015. Grass roots need time to establish before visitors can start using the playfields again.
  • Grand Opening Celebration! Ecology and Metro Parks Tacoma are plannng to host a grand opening of the park in early summer 2015. More information coming soon!

Questions about the cleanup?



Monday, December 15, 2014

Getting to clean water: Working together to improve water quality in Clarks Creek

By Sandy Howard, Water Quality Program communications manager
Urban-area Clarks Creek is a tributary of the Puyallup River.
If five species of salmon could put their fins together and clap, they’d be giving a big round of applause for some plans underway for Clarks Creek in the Puyallup River watershed.

The Department of Ecology and local partners have finalized a plan to improve the health of the creek, and a lot of folks will soon be working together to make it happen.

This four-mile spring-fed tributary of the Puyallup River is an important area for salmon. Five salmon species migrate, spawn, and rear in the area.

The health symptoms

A water quality cleanup plan was developed for Clarks Creek because it suffers from low levels of dissolved oxygen and excess sediment. Salmon and aquatic life need oxygen to “breathe.” Sediment clogs gills and smothers fish egg nests.

The root cause of most of the problems is polluted stormwater runoff.

And from bad to worse, the current water conditions foster the overgrowth of the nuisance weed elodea, which creates conditions that harm fish and their supporting habitat.

The creek and its tributaries run through the city of Puyallup and unincorporated Pierce County. People live on the creek and depend on it for fishing, swimming, boating, farming, and its natural beauty. If the conditions in Clarks Creek are ignored, these uses will be lost and fish habitat will slowly disappear.

Cleanup required by law

Federal and state law require the Ecology to develop a plan that will protect the creek, improve its current condition, and get it back to meeting state water quality standards.

The water quality improvement report was developed with help from a group consisting of Pierce County, the city of Puyallup, Puyallup Tribe, WSU Puyallup, local citizens, the state Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ecology. The group originally formed in May 2009.

The report is now online, and the next step is for EPA to approve the Clarks Creek dissolved Oxygen and Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load report. We have also posted technical documents.

We appreciate all the support this group has provided during the development of the report.

Returning Clarks Creek to healthy conditions that support salmon will require new efforts from all the partners.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fecal Matters: Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles Harbor CLOSED to Swimming, Port Angeles, Clallam County

BEACH Program Update

On December 10, 2014, Clallam County Health Department CLOSED Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles to water contact recreation.  The closure is due to a sewage spill into Port Angeles Harbor.  The public is to have no contact with the water until further notice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

E-Cycle tops one-quarter of a billion pounds recycled

By Andrew Wineke, Communications Consultant, Hazardous Waste program



A quarter of a billion of anything is a lot.  A quarter of a billion people is the population of the United States, minus California and Texas. Stack a quarter of a billion pennies, and you’d have a tower 236 miles high. And if you put a quarter of a billion pounds on the scale, it would weigh the same as 449 fully loaded Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners.

It just so happens that there’s another thing that weighs a quarter of a billion pounds: All of the TVs, computers and monitors people in Washington have recycled through the E-Cycle Washington program since 2009!

Electronic items contain heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium, so they don’t belong in a landfill. Since 2009, E-Cycle Washington has taken in more than 900,000 computers, monitors, laptops, tablet computers, televisions, portable DVD players and e-readers each year – an average of 41.7 million pounds a year.

The Department of Ecology conservatively estimates that the E-Cycle program has kept more than 23 million pounds of lead out of our landfills.

E-Cycle is a great example of product stewardship – the idea that manufacturers need to plan for what happens to their products after they wear out or become obsolete. In Washington, manufacturers pay for the recycling program, which allows consumers to drop off electronic items at 340 locations around the state. To find an E-Cycle drop-off site near you, go to www.ecyclewashington.org.

What happens to your old laptop after you turn it in? Most of the electronics E-Cycle takes in are disassembled for recycling here in Washington. Metals, plastics and glass are separated and sold as commodities to be reused in new products. On average, only 2 percent ends up in a landfill, and that’s mostly the particle board frames from old TV sets.

Please note that not every type of electronic device can be recycled through E-Cycle. You can find a list of products that are accepted at www.ecyclewashington.org. If you’re wondering how to recycle a keyboard, mouse, or printer, go to 1800recycle.wa.gov.


More bright ideas on the way

Washington’s second product stewardship program, LightRecycle Washington, begins in January 2015.  Fluorescent lights, both the curlicue compact fluorescent bulbs and traditional fluorescent tubes, will be accepted for recycling at no charge at more than 170 locations across the state.  Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, so it’s important to dispose of them properly.

 See www.lightrecyclewa.org  for more information about this great recycling opportunity.





Monday, December 1, 2014

New video is window on how your water resources are managed


By Dan Partridge, Communications manager, Water Resources Program


If you reside in the state of Washington, the water coming out of your tap represents only a tiny fraction of your stake in the water resources of the state.

Consider yourself the proud owner of all the water in the lakes, rivers and streams of the state, as well as all the groundwater you don’t see. Under law, the water resources of Washington are owned in common by the people of our state, and the Department of Ecology works for you to manage those water resources for your benefit and the benefit of more than 6,970,000 residents of Washington.

Ecology was given the responsibility of managing your water resources when it was created by the Legislature in 1970.

One of the tools we use to do this is called an “instream flow rule.” That’s an odd sounding name but it is a tool with a vital purpose. A rule allows us to set specific levels of stream flows for a particular watershed and limit future surface and groundwater withdrawals accordingly — to ensure there is enough water in those rivers and streams to meet the current and future needs of people, fish and wildlife.

To tell the story of how we use instream flow rules and what they do for your water resources, we’ve produced a video embedded in this blog and available on YouTube.

It’s narrated by Jim Pacheco, an instream flow biologist for 12 years with Ecology’s Water Resources Program. He has worked on five of the 26 instream flow rules Ecology has adopted for watersheds in the state.

Managing our water supplies is more challenging than ever before. Population growth is increasing the demand for water at a time when climate change is affecting mountain snowpack — which provides our water storage for cities and farms.

After watching “Instream Flows: protecting our water suppy” if you want to learn more about the work of the Water Resources Program go to: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/wrhome.html