Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Around the Sound: Bellingham barges demystified

By Katie J. Skipper, communications manager, Bellingham

We’ve been seeing some questions circulating about barges anchored in Bellingham Bay, and I thought it would be helpful to provide some information from our perspective.

Oil barges are regulated by state and federal law, which require operators to immediately report to Ecology and the Coast Guard any oil spills or illegal discharges to water. We have received no reports of any spills or discharges from these barges.

We regularly inspect fuel transfers over water to determine if the operations pose an environmental risk, and if they comply with state regulations.

Barge operators must notify the Vessel Traffic Service, operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, of their voyages and anchorages, of which Bellingham Bay is one. The fuel barges notify Ecology when they transfer cargo, and the facilities, such as refineries, notify Ecology when they load a barge or ship.

The barges you see in Bellingham Bay typically carry refined petroleum products such as gasoline or diesel fuel, although some large fishing vessels and refrigerated vessels also anchor there waiting to get to Bellingham Cold Storage.

Generally, these barges take on refined products from the refineries. They also may be used as product storage during refinery maintenance.

There was an increase in barge traffic during recent routine maintenance at Conoco-Phillips Ferndale Refinery, which required operations to be shut down at part of the plant. The refinery was storing partially refined product in the barges until maintenance was completed.

The barges don’t have engines for propulsion. They rely on tug boats to move around.
Bellingham Bay is a protected anchorage used primarily by tug and barge company K-Sea Transportation, although other companies sometimes use it, too.

K-Sea is not in the bunkering business, which means they generally do not refuel vessels from barges.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Setting the record straight: No ban on shoreline property erosion control

By Gordon White, manager, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program

Contrary to what you may have heard, shoreline development regulations in Whatcom County don’t put environmental protection ahead of erosion protection on shoreline properties, and Whatcom County did not ban shoreline erosion control.

I can’t talk about a specific case that is still having its day in court, but I can share the facts about our state’s shoreline requirements.

Alternative shoreline protection method:
Seahurst Park, Burien

Seawall removal project: Before

Seawall removal project: After

Photos by Hugh Shipman, Washington Department of Ecology
Washington’s shoreline development rules recognize that environmental protection and property protection go hand in hand.

Our approach respects the values of the people of Washington state. Shorelines are where people go swimming, where they put their boats into the water, where they go for walks, and where salmon and other cool things live. In our state, we want to maintain that connection to the shoreline.

Whatcom County was the first of the state’s 39 counties to update its segment of statewide shoreline development rules, called the shoreline master program, as required by state law. (You can read the news release.) The state Department of Ecology must approve local jurisdictions’ updates.

Shoreline master programs protect the ecological integrity of our shorelines while protecting private property and allowing water-dependent uses. The shoreline rules also recognize erosion control as a safety issue, protecting people from unstable slopes or floods.

Armoring a section of shoreline may increase erosion elsewhere on a shoreline, inflicting harm on other property owners and natural resources. However, in cases where no other shoreline protection method will work, the county’s shoreline regulations and state law allow armoring shorelines to protect legally-built structures that are shown to be threatened.

If there are alternatives to armoring, that’s what we want to see. We work with property owners and local governments to find those solutions.

In approving the Shoreline Management Act in 1972, Washington’s voters made it a priority to preserve and protect the ecological integrity of their shorelines as a means of protecting their property.

Because most jurisdictions hadn’t comprehensively updated their shoreline master programs in more than 30 years, the 2003 Legislature directed more than 260 towns, cities and counties to comprehensively update their shoreline rules.

The statewide update allows individual jurisdictions to avoid the environmental harm inherent in piecemeal and uncoordinated shoreline development. Most of these updates will be completed by 2014.

Our environment is one of our state’s most treasured assets. We live here because it’s beautiful here, and we can keep it that way while protecting our private property.

Here are some links to more information:
Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program
FAQs: Shoreline master programs
Introduction to the state Shoreline Management Act
Shoreline master programs overview
FAQs: Marine shoreline armoring and Puget Sound
Focus on shoreline armoring

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Around the Sound: Wrapping up Wyckoff

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Bainbridge Island residents had plenty of questions following Wednesday night’s presentation on possible cleanup alternatives for the Wyckoff site.

Here’s a sampling of the give-and-take with community members, Ecology staff and consultants:

  • One man asked when an alternative will be selected, and how soon work would begin after that.

    Ecology’s Tim Nord reiterated that we have a lot of work to do before we would reach that point. That includes submitting Ecology’s report to EPA for review and discussion. We’re not sure how long that might take.

    Work also would include more in-depth study of each alternative and more detailed cost estimates. Right now, rough estimates for the alternatives range between $120 million and $170 million.

    Nord note that even if an alternative is chosen and agreed upon, the question is where would the money come from?

    “That’s the unsatisfactory answer I have to give you all right now. But that’s the way it is,” Nord said.

  • A waterfront homeowner asked about how rising sea levels could affect the Wyckoff site and the selection of an alternative.

    Nord said climate change issues would have to be factored into any decision-making and alternative selection process.

    Residents also asked several other questions, including about the type and amount of power used for cleanup alternatives, and the use of cement in stabilizing similar sites around the country. They also had the chance to talk one-on-one with Ecology staff and consultants following the presentation.

    Ecology will continue working on the pending report on possible alternatives before returning to Bainbridge in a few months. You can track further developments by visiting Ecology’s Wyckoff website and by watching this blog.

  • Spill Drill on Padilla Bay This Morning

    By Larry Altose, Communications Manager, Northwest Regional Office

    That’s a drill, not a spill, on Padilla Bay this morning.

    Skimming vessels — including the one shown here — work boats and crews from two Salish Sea spill-response organizations and local facilities are participating.

    See the Ecology Spills program Web site for photos, background and updates.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Around the Sound: A glimpse at Wyckoff's rich history

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Beyond environmental issues, the Wyckoff cleanup site holds deep meaning to local residents and the community.

    That includes:

    + Its history as a major industrial site on Puget Sound.

    + Its current and future expanded use as a community park.

    + Its service as home to a moving memorial to Japanese-Americans removed from the island during World War II.

    + Its long-term significance to the local Suquamish Tribe.

    Merle Hayes, fisheries policy liaison for the Suquamish, talked about his people's rich history on Bainbridge Island and in the Puget Sound region. He said many people share that love for the area.

    “I believe everyone sitting in this room has a piece of this Sound embedded in them,” he said, and the desire to do the right thing for its health.

    Libby Hudson, long-range planning manager for the City of Bainbridge Island, also talked about the site's history. Perry Barrett, senior planner for the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, talked about Pritchard Park, which encompasses the Wyckoff site, as well as the Japanese-American memorial.

    After they spoke, Kate Snider of the Floyd Snider environmental consulting firm talked through possible alternatives for cleanup at the Wyckoff site. (See the earlier post for a quick summary of those possible alternatives.)

    Around the Sound: Wyckoff report due in a few months

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Manager

    Ecology expects to produce a report on possible alternatives for the Wyckoff cleanup site in May or June.

    The report will go to Bainbridge Island community members and to the Environmental Protection Agency, said Tim Nord, land and aquatics cleanup manager for Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program.

    When the report is ready, Ecology and EPA will discuss it and the options it details.

    "I can’t tell you what’s going to happen after that. I’m optimistic, but I just can’t tell you," Nord told about 50 community members at tonight's community meeting at IslandWood.

    Nord walked the crowd through a short review of the Wyckoff site and the cleanup process around it that involves EPA and Ecology. Nord noted that the site is “a very complex and difficult issue, both for us and EPA, as well as for the community.”

    The site contains roughly 1 million gallons of creosote-type material. Creosote "lasts a long time. It's made to last a long time," Nord said, which is one of the major difficulties about the Wyckoff property.

    Around the Sound: Wyckoff open house is under way

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Bainbridge Island residents are showing up at IslandWood to learn about possible cleanup alternatives for the Wyckoff site on the edge of Puget Sound.

    The site, on Eagle Harbor, is contaminated with large amounts of creosote compounds produced by historic wood-treating operations. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a containment remedy that includes containment and water treatment.

    Ecology wants to look for other alternatives, given the potential long-term (think hundreds of years) costs of maintaining and occasionally rebuilding that remedy. We also want to see if we can remove more of the material from the site, so there would be less to contain.

    Here’s a quick rundown on the alternatives proposed by national experts who participated in an Ecology-led workshop in January:

    + Full on-site treatment of contaminated material, using steam and electrical heat. The full life of the project is estimated between seven and 20 years.

    + Excavate the entire site, use heat to remove contaminants and use the treated material to fill the site. Estimated project life is four to seven years.

    + Excavate the top 30 feet of material, treat it with heat and replace it. Lower-level material would be treated in place with heat. Estimated project life is eight to 19 years.

    + Excavate the top 30 feet, treat it with heat and stabilize the lower-level material by mixing in cement. Estimated project life is four to six years.

    Around the Sound: Ready to go 'live' on Bainbridge

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    It's about 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, and we're at IslandWood on Bainbridge Island. We're preparing to meet with community members about the Wyckoff cleanup site at Eagle Harbor.

    An open house will start at 5:30 p.m. That will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by a presentation and the opportunity for interested residents to ask questions about the Toxic Cleanup Program's continuing work to explore long-term solutions for the site.

    The former wood-processing site, on the edge of Puget Sound, is contaminated with large amounts of creosote compounds produced by historic wood-treating operations. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a containment remedy at the site. This includes a containment wall and a water-treatment facility.

    In January, Ecology brought in a panel of experts to look at the site and talk during workshops about possible cleanup actions. Tonight, we're going to talk about what's been going on since then.

    IslandWood is located at 4450 Blakely Ave. NE.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Only a drill: Oil spill teams to stage Padilla Bay practice

    By Larry Altose, Communications Manager, Northwest Regional Office

    It may look like an oil spill response on Padilla Bay Thursday morning. But it’s only a drill.

    Spill response boats, oil skimmers and other equipment will take to southern part of the bay in Skagit County for what’s called a combined deployment drill. Everything needed for the real thing will be there, except the oil, which is not used in a practice like this.

    The Washington Department of Ecology will observe and evaluate the exercise.

    Spills Preparedness

    Staging an exercise in Padilla Bay will allow spill responders to focus on the special requirements of operating in shallow water. The bay empties completely at low tide to expose miles of mud flats and eelgrass beds. At high tide much of the bay is less than 10 feet deep.

    This means the boats have only the peak two hours of the high tide in which to work, navigate without grounding and retreat to deeper water. Thursday’s high tide is predicted for 12:12 p.m. at 7.1 feet.

    The private, not-for-profit Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC) will conduct the exercise, using four skimmers and several additional boats. MSRC will be joined by its British Columbia counterpart, Burrard Clean Operations (BCO). About two dozen people from the two organizations will participate.

    MSRC will deploy vessels in oil-skimming formations on open water, and will dispatch crews to the mouth of Telegraph Slough on the bay’s southern shore to deploy 2,000 feet of boom a floating, segmented barrier to keep oil from entering that waterway.

    Oil-skimming V formation
    Oil-skimming V formation: Boom drawn by the leading work boats channels oil to the skimmer at the v-point.
    There may be few places to see the drill very well from shore, but here are the two primary things to watch for:
    1. Skimming. The most common method is the V formation. The skimmer is at the point, aimed toward the inside, working with two other vessels. Several yards of boom connect the skimmer with each helper boat.

      As the three-boat formation moves forward, oil is funneled by the V toward the skimmer. Usually a helicopter guides the skimming, but we won’t have a chopper on Thursday. The crews will practice working in formation and keeping the V in trim.

    2. Booming off the slough. There are dozens of places around Puget Sound that will be protected first if there’s an oil spill nearby. The overall plan is called the Geographical Response Plan, or GRP. Each site is called a GRP, and the entrance to Telegraph Slough is actually two of these, one on each side of mouth.

      Crews in work boats will follow plans already written for this location to anchor and position the bright yellow or orange boom to protect the slough.

    Drill Sponsors

    Boom deployment
    Boom deployment: A work boat tows boom into place at a Geographical Response Plan site.
    Shipping companies, oil terminals and pipelines are members of MSRC and BCO.
    Eleven of these companies are sponsoring the drill:
    1. Sea River Maritime, Inc.
    2. Polar Tankers, Inc.
    3. BP Shipping
    4. BP Cherry Point Refinery
    5. Kinder Morgan Transmoutain Pipeline
    6. Alaska Tanker Company
    7. Tesoro Anacortes Refinery
    8. ConocoPhillips Ferndale Refinery
    9. Harley Marine Services, Inc.
    10. Shell Puget Sound Refinery
    11. Olympic Pipe Line Co.

    By doing so, they will fulfill a part of the Washington State oil-spill preparedness requirements that apply to them. Larger ships and facilities must develop, update and practice oil spill contingency plans. These plans are separate and in addition to spill-prevention plans and programs they must develop and follow.

    The Padilla Bay drill is part of Ecology’s work on spill preparedness. Ensuring this preparedness forms part of Ecology’s overall effort to reduce toxic threats to public safety, health and the environment and to support the statewide initiative to protect and restore Puget Sound.

    Padilla Bay between Anacortes and Mount Vernon is a National Estuarine Research Reserve, administered by Ecology, with its headquarters and education center near Bay View.

    Also see our news release, Spill response practice set for Padilla Bay (March 23, 2010)

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Around the Sound: News and notes for a Monday

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    To get the week rolling, here are some recent news articles with links to Puget Sound.

    First, the Kitsap Sun reports on the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe receiving federal money to investigate toxic pollution in and around Port Gamble Bay.

    Port Gamble Bay on the Kitsap Peninsula is a priority area under the Puget Sound Initiative. The initiative is a comprehensive effort by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental communities, scientists, and the public to restore and protect the Sound.

    + KUOW Radio takes a look at the issue of protecting the Sound’s shorelines.

    + Here’s a report on two pieces of legislation that Gov. Chris Gregoire signed with the aim of protecting the Sound.

    + The Herald of Everett reports on some good news for shellfish harvesting in Port Susan Bay in Snohomish County.

    Seeking a source: Where is Slip 4’s contamination coming from?

    By Mark Edens, Site Manager, Dept. of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program

    Collecting stormwater samples in the North Boeing Field area

    Environmental investigators Glen Vedera and Julie Wartes with Science Applications International Corporation, under a Washington Department of Ecology contract, collect stormwater samples in the North Boeing Field area of south Seattle in January 2010.

    Detective work takes patience and persistence.

    Over the fall and winter months we’ve needed plenty of both for the Department of Ecology’s investigation in the North Boeing Field area to locate and control contamination that enters the nearby Duwamish Waterway.

    A rainy forecast means more opportunities. This is when we gather stormwater and sediment samples from drain lines.

    A sampling crew from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) works under a contract with Ecology. The study is part of an agreement between Ecology, the City of Seattle, King County, and the Boeing Company to investigate and propose solutions for soil, stormwater, and groundwater contamination in the North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant area of south Seattle.

    EPA and Ecology have agreed to accelerate investigation.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans for contaminated sediment at the bottom of Slip 4, a nearby inlet of the Duwamish Waterway, to be cleaned up by fall of 2011. EPA and Ecology have agreed to accelerate investigation of pollutant sources on the 137-acre North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant site to prevent re-contamination of the inlet to meet the cleanup target date.

    Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other pollutants have been found in storm drains that empty to Slip 4 from the site. PCBs were commonly added to oil used in electrical transformers. They were banned in the 1970s after scientists found that the chemical was harmful to people and many years if leaked or spilled.

    The current work is part of a comprehensive site investigation supervised by Ecology and conducted by SAIC. The three property owners have agreed to jointly pay the cost of this sampling and analysis. The study area includes northern portions of King County International Airport (Boeing Field) – property owned by King County and currently leased by Boeing – and the city-owned Georgetown Steam Plant site at the airport’s north end.

    The three parties have conducted several cleanup and storm-drain improvement projects over the past 25 years, all aimed at cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination from past industrial activities. These included replacement of some pavement joint seals at the airport that contained PCBs and the cleanup and replacement of a contaminated drainage channel called the Georgetown Steam Plant flume. Additional joint-seals replacement and other cleanup projects may be necessary, because PCBs and other contaminants continue to appear in storm drain sediments.

    A five-mile reach of the river upstream of Harbor Island is the federal Lower Duwamish Superfund cleanup site, jointly administered by the EPA and Ecology. Slip 4 is part of that larger sediment cleanup effort.

    The Duwamish flows to Puget Sound.

    Cleanup of the waterway is a significant part of Ecology’s effort to reduce and prevent toxic threats to the environment and to support the Governor’s Puget Sound Initiative – a cooperative effort among state, local, federal and tribal governments, businesses, and organizations to protect and restore Washington’s inland marine waters.

    Like all detective work, environment investigations involve sifting for clues. AIC’s sampling work provides new “evidence” to help us identify lingering sources of PCB contamination. This could lead to special environmental cleanup projects – called Interim Actions in Washington’s toxics cleanup law – to prevent PCB releases from re-contaminating Slip 4. Other solutions could include construction of a treatment system to reduce PCB concentrations in stormwater discharges.

    We’re also making use of the data to create a computer model to help us understand how much protection Slip 4 will need after the 2011 cleanup of its sediments. We’ll use the model to set limits on PCB concentrations in the drainage system sediments in order to prevent the inlet’s recontamination.

    Cleanups on land that prevent contamination of Duwamish sediments are called Source Control. Ecology coordinates most of the Source Control investigations and cleanups in the Lower Duwamish, including this one.

    There are more planned cleanup zones in the Lower Duwamish Waterway, and more Source Control areas that drain to them. Slip 4 and North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant drainage basin help illustrate the magnitude of the challenge – and potential for achievement – that the overall Lower Duwamish cleanup presents for the governments, property owners, and communities that have stakes in this undertaking.

    For more information:

    North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant area:

    Lower Duwamish Superfund site:

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Around the Sound: Comments flood in on the Rayonier Mill cleanup

    Things have been busy since the comment period for the new cleanup agreement closed on March 5th. We received 34 comment letters containing over 200 separate comments! We heard from environmental groups, local governments, business organizations, and a number of concerned residents from Port Angeles, Sequim, and even Olympia.

    What did people say?
    The vast majority of letters included a comment on shortening the timeline in the Agreed Order. Many commenters asked Ecology to explain how it would enforce the Agreed Order, with specific questions about deadline extensions and dispute resolution. Many also touched on the issue of future land uses for the property and restoring Ennis Creek. A number of people were concerned about setting stringent cleanup levels and accounting for climate change and natural disasters in selecting an interim action remedy. Ecology was also asked to add more time for public involvement opportunities, address Rayonier landfill issues, and respond to a number of other questions.

    What’s next?
    After sorting through and categorizing the various comments and questions, we are now writing the Responsiveness Summary. This document compiles all of the comments and responds to both general concerns and several specific comments. I will send out an e-mail and a mailing to announce when the Responsiveness Summary is ready.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    The straight scoop on Bellingham Bay cleanup funding

    By Katie J. Skipper, Communications Manager, Bellingham Field Office

    During legislative sessions, predicting budgets and project funding is a little like predicting the weather – next year. So we understand why some people might be confused about what’s going on with funding for Bellingham Bay cleanup projects.

    Hopefully, we can clear things up, though we won’t know all of the answers until legislators and the Governor settle on the state’s final budget.

    One thing we do know is that no state cleanup money has been taken away from Bellingham Bay sites. Through grant agreements, state funding is committed to reimburse up to 50 percent of local government cleanup costs at many sites. Other sites don’t have a grant agreement in place yet, so no money is committed to them.

    The state has committed $24 million in a grant agreement with the Port of Bellingham for Whatcom Waterway cleanup – the largest and most complex of the 12 Bellingham Bay cleanup sites. We also have $3.5 million in remedial action grant agreements for seven other sites: Cornwall Avenue Landfill, G-P West, Central Waterfront, Weldcraft Steel and Marine, Harris Avenue Shipyard, I & J Waterway and South State Street MGP.

    When Ecology prepared its 2009-11 budget request to the governor, the R.G. Haley site wasn’t in public ownership yet, so it wasn’t eligible for grant funding. We understand this site is a top priority for its new owner, the city, and it’s a top priority for Ecology, so we’re working to obtain future funding there.

    Yes, the Legislature transferred $179 million from state and local toxics cleanup accounts into the general fund to manage a historic revenue shortfall in the last two years. But legislators protected projects like Bellingham Bay using state bond funds.

    We didn’t lose any money, but we didn’t get any more.

    This year, transfers of cleanup account funds and restoration of cleanup funding for new projects are both under consideration. We won’t know how cleanup funds will be used until the final budget is completed.

    For now, we have funds to do plenty of work, and we’re doing it.

    Around the Sound: Back to Bainbridge

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Staff from Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program will be back on Bainbridge Island on Wednesday, March 24, to talk more about the Wyckoff cleanup site at Eagle Harbor.

    The former wood-processing site, on the edge of Puget Sound, is contaminated with large amounts of creosote compounds produced by historic wood-treating operations. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established a containment remedy at the site. This includes a containment wall and a water-treatment facility.

    Our staff will meet with residents to talk about the work we’re doing to explore long-term solutions for the site. In January, Ecology brought in a panel of experts to look at the site and talk during workshops about possible cleanup actions. That effort culminated in a community meeting at IslandWood. Residents were able to talk one-on-one with the experts about the site and about possible cleanup work.

    (For more on the workshops, see previous “Around the Sound” entries.)

    The March 24 meeting will again be held at IslandWood, 4450 Blakely Ave. NE. An open house will start at 5:30 p.m., followed at 6:30 p.m. by a presentation and the opportunity for interested residents to ask questions.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Around the Sound: Focus on Custom Plywood in Anacortes

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    The weekly Anacortes American newspaper reports that the Port of Anacortes looking at possibly acquiring a site on Fidalgo Bay that’s already designated for cleanup under the Puget Sound Initiative.

    The site — a large part of the Anacortes waterfront near 35th Street and V Avenue — previously was home to industrial operations. The Custom Plywood mill, the last occupant, burned down in 1992.

    Now the abandoned site is littered with building remnants and debris. Soil samples collected during past investigations showed elevated levels of petroleum (gasoline, diesel fuel, and oil), arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and PCBs. Contamination also has been detected in marine sediments and groundwater.

    The photos show what the site looked like during a visit to Anacortes last week.

    The site is near a state aquatic reserve and the Tommy Thompson Trail, two significant public resources. Cleaning up contamination will improve environmental conditions at and around the site, and reduce toxic threats to local residents and resources.

    Ecology and the Port of Anacortes already are partnering on several cleanup projects around Fidalgo Bay, including the Dakota Creek Industries shipyard; a former Shell Oil tank farm; the former Scott Paper mill; and the Pier 2 log haul-out site.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Country Junction work progressing

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    The photos show crews digging up and removing contaminated soil at the Country Junction store in South Kitsap County.

    Everett-based Clearcreek Contractors is heading the project at the gas station and convenience store. Country Junction is located at 5310 S.E. Highway 160 (Mile Hill Drive), on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 160 and Long Lake Road east of Port Orchard.

    This week, workers dug into the former location of the dispenser island, and found out a significant amount of contamination. They dug out and trucked away a large amount of contaminated soil.

    A store has operated on the site since the 1960s; at some point, the property also was used for bulk storage of heating fuel. An earlier cleanup (in 1990) removed five old underground storage tanks from the property. About 1,500 cubic yards of material was dug up, piled nearby and remediated in place above the ground. Since then, the site has been monitored. A few years ago, sampling and a subsequent investigation showed widespread groundwater contamination between the store and Long Lake Road. Ecology's project is focusing on that contamination and its sources.

    Ecology is using about $500,000 in stimulus money provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). It’s one of several ARRA-funded projects that Ecology is undertaking.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Mosquito permit attendance welcomed

    Whoa! What a great turnout for the public hearing in Moses Lake on the update to the Aquatic Mosquito Control General Permit. We count this large attendance as a sign of a successful public process. At the same time, we hope no one was uncomfortable as we tried to accommodate the unexpected number of people.

    A big thank you goes out to all the people who cared enough to attend the hearing and for their patience as we tried to make do with the space we had. Ecology will try to make sure this doesn’t happen again by planning for larger venues.

    The feedback we received at the hearing was very useful to us and will be considered as we develop the new permit. Comments received are very valuable as this permit is not yet a done deal. The bottom line is that we need to ensure the permit protects the environment while at the same time protecting people.

    We expect to have the permit finished and ready to go in June to be ready for this mosquito season. It will allow the use of insecticides to control adult mosquitoes that carry diseases such as West Nile virus.

    For more information see our Aquatic Mosquito Control NPDES General Permit website.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Around the Sound: Cleanup in full swing at Scott site in Anacortes

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Cleanup work is moving ahead at and around the old Scott paper mill site on Fidalgo Bay. This cleanup is the largest single project to date to begin under the Puget Sound Initiative. The initiative is a comprehensive effort by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental communities, scientists, and the public to restore and protect the Sound.

    Ecology is working on the project with the Port of Anacortes and Kimberly-Clark Corp. The Scott site totals about 41 acres between 17th and 20th streets, and east of Q Avenue in downtown Anacortes.

    A tour on Monday, March 8, revealed a beehive of activity at the Scott site plus at a related staging area. The project is employing about 70 workers, according to Port staff.

    The accompanying photos show several activities at the Port’s Pier 2, where materials are brought for processing.
    • First is a look inside a structure at the pier where workers separate wood and rocks from sediment dug up at the site. Visible in the back is the pile of unprocessed sediment. Once the sediment is cleared of wood and rocks, it’s trucked to a landfill.
    • The second photo shows a mound of wood removed from the sediment.
    • The third photo shows logs removed from the site, and large blue containers used to help recover water from materials brought from the Scott site. The tent-like structure in the background houses water-processing equipment.
    • Here’s an Ecology news release from June 2009 that gives more background on the site and the planned cleanup work.

    Other Scott notes:

    • If you’re interested in looking at the Scott site yourself, you can take one of the public tours that the Port gives on the second Monday of each month. Tour participants gather at 4 p.m. on those days at the Dakota Creek Industries office at 4th Street and Q Avenue in Anacortes. But if you want to go, double-check the time and location with the Port of Anacortes to make sure the logistics have not changed.
    • Ecology and Port staff will listen in March 18 as students at Western Washington University present their ideas about the Scott cleanup. As mentioned in earlier Around the Sound entries, the students are learning about environmental cleanup by studying the Scott site. As part of the cleanup agreement for the site, WWU received $100,000 to support scientific research, K-12 education and public outreach.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    The truth about the state’s new, proposed mosquito permit

    By Sandy Howard

    Right now, some Mosquito Control Districts across the state believe Ecology is going to ban them from spraying this season. This is not accurate.

    Ecology is working to update the state’s Aquatic Mosquito Control General Permit. The new permit we expect to finalize by June would allow the use of insecticides to control adult mosquitoes that carry diseases such as West Nile virus.

    We are currently conducting a full public process on this change and we invite your opinion.

    Here is the backdrop:
    Federal court decisions and the federal Clean Water Act require Ecology to issue a permit anytime pollutants are discharged into our waters.

    Under the current permit, it’s illegal for any incidental discharge of insecticides into water control adult mosquitoes. This will remain illegal until Ecology can issue a new permit that addresses this.

    We need to change the current permit to keep us in a legal position to protect human health should a need arise to control mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus.

    Ecology’s new, proposed permit will continue to allow the use of pesticides to control nuisance mosquitoes as long as pesticides don’t get into waters of the state.

    The permit will continue to allow the use of larvacides to kill mosquito larvae, which is the most effective way to control mosquitoes.

    Aquatic pesticide permits provide important public health and environmental benefits. The same insecticides that target adult mosquitoes are also toxic to aquatic animals. They are extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms, including mayflies, caddisflies and other important invertebrates in aquatic food webs. They can harm threatened and endangered salmon.

    For more information about the current and proposed permits, visit Ecology’s website. To learn more about West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health’s website.

    If you have comments about Ecology’s proposed permit, we invite you to attend a public workshop and hearing we’re holding at 1 p.m. March 9 at the Moses Lake Fire Department, 701 E. Third Ave. Email your comments about the proposed permit to Jon Jennings at or mail them to Jon at Mosquito Control Permit Comments, Department of Ecology, Water Quality Program, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504. Our deadline to receive comments is 5 p.m. on March 17.

    Around the Sound: A busy day for spills responders, plus more ...

    By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Ecology spills responders were in high gear because of three incidents Wednesday (March 3).

    The state-funded emergency response tug helped tow a drifting tanker into safe harbor at Tacoma. Here’s our news release, as well as a report from Chris Dunagan’s blog for the Kitsap Sun. This incident is just one more reminder of how important it is for the Sound’s sake to have a tug available to respond to emergencies.

    Also, Ecology responded to reports of a sheen in Bellingham Bay near Boulevard Park. Here’s our release, along with a Bellingham Herald article.

    And here’s a story from the Journal of the San Juans about a boat sinking in Friday Harbor, which caused a fuel spill there.

    Bonus items:

    * The Herald in Everett reports on the city’s plan to clean up a contaminated site near a major redevelopment area.

    * Finally, Ecology announced an agreement with Boeing to investigate two properties along the Duwamish Waterway that the company owns.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Around the Sound: Rayonier Mill's three-year timeline

    by Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

    Since announcing the new cleanup agreement with Rayonier, the most common community concern we’ve heard has been the slow progress of cleanup at the Port Angeles Rayonier Mill site. The most pressing issue is the three years it will take Rayonier to plan for cleanup of the Study Area—a portion of the overall site. Many members of the community would like to see shovels in the ground before 2013, for a variety of reasons related to restoring and reusing the former mill property.

    So, does Rayonier really need three years to plan for cleanup? Yes, Rayonier and Ecology need the time to plan for a protective and effective cleanup, and here’s why...

    Getting cleanup done

    After nearly two decades of piecemeal investigation and cleanup, Ecology is ready to start wrapping up the Study Area—both upland and marine. When the former mill property is eventually restored or redeveloped, we want to make sure no further cleanup ever has to be done on that portion of the site. This means thoroughly investigating the extent of contamination in soil, groundwater, and sediments, throughout the Study Area (figure on the left).

    Protecting human health and the environment

    Cleaning up surface soils will probably protect humans from much of the potential contact with contaminants in the Study Area. However, we also have to be sure that the soil contamination is not seeping into groundwater, and ultimately into the harbor (figure on the right). This soil-to-groundwater pathway is one of the major unknowns Rayonier needs to address. We also need to clean up sediments because marine critters can be harmed by contaminants, and we humans eat those critters!

    Doing it right the first time

    Our schedule lists deliverables and review periods for each task in the Agreed Order, getting us to a three-year timeframe. Although it may seem like just process, each item is an important step towards getting those shovels in the ground. For example, going back and forth with Rayonier over sampling designs and double-checking lab data takes time, but it saves time in the end by making sure we get everything we need to finish the report.

    The only way we can stay on track with the overall cleanup is to make sure Rayonier does each step right the first time. The cleanup of Bayou Bonfouca in Slidell, Louisiana was brought up during the open house. Although the 54-acre site is very different from Rayonier, it illustrates the pitfalls of starting cleanup before fully understanding the contamination. The site was listed by EPA in 1983 and by 1987 EPA had a cleanup plan. However, the plans had to be redone three years later because they significantly underestimated the amount of toxic waste. (Most soil and sediments were cleaned up by 1995, but groundwater treatment continues to this day.)

    Finally, this three-year timeline will allow other cleanup or restoration work to happen—the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow project or Ennis Creek restoration. It also leaves the door open for a future buyer to join the Agreed Order. If any redevelopment plans were ready to move forward in the next three or four years, Ecology would still be willing to evaluate if they were compatible with cleanup of the Study Area. No, complete redevelopment probably can’t start in the next three years, but when it does happen, we can be confident in the cleanup.