go to the WA Dept. of Ecology
Ecologys ECOconnect blog

Friday, January 21, 2011

Maps show state's stormwater investments in 2011

By Sandy Howard, Water Quality Program
Stormwater Investment Map for 2011 Western Washington
Last year’s state budget included $54 million to assist local governments with their stormwater needs in state fiscal year 2011. The funding came from the state building construction account.

Putting funding out there to deal with local stormwater problems is important because, after all, polluted stormwater runoff is the number one threat to our waters and to Puget Sound.

We’ve put together a couple of maps that show where those local investments are happening. See them here: Western Washington and Eastern Washington.

To understand the maps you may want to understand the funding. First, we broke the $54 million in approximate half, using some of it for Ecology’s administration costs.

The FY 2011 Stormwater Retrofit/LID Competitive Grants are the red dots on the maps. In this program, 43 cities and counties get a share of $23.4 million to plan, design and build stormwater retrofit and low-impact development facility projects.

White dots on the maps show cities that received funding through the FY 2011 Municipal Stormwater Capacity Grants Program. The light gray shaded counties signify the counties that got this funding. This $23.5 million program was split among all 116 municipalities subject to municipal stormwater regulations. The funding is to assist local governments build staffing capacity, improve stormwater research, data management capabilities, and water quality monitoring.

Black-and-white dots on the map show the cities that are using the capacity grants money for stormwater facility construction, which includes retrofit of existing facilities and low-impact development techniques. Dark gray shows the counties. The amounts given to the municipalities were based on population.

Scroll beyond the maps to see the project descriptions of the just-announced retrofit/LID competitive grants. There may be one near you!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Around the Sound: Rayonier Mill investigations continue

By Connie Groven, project manager

Over the last few weeks, you may have noticed heavy equipment and activity on the Rayonier property again. What is going on now?


Here are some photos of the test pit process…
1. An excavator digs a pit and sorts the material by layers.


2. The pits allow sampling and observation of the layers of material.


3. The side walls of shallow pits are sampled from inside the pit.


4. Samples from deep pits are collected from the bucket.


5. If visibly contaminated soil is found, it is separated...


6. ...and placed in a container for removal.

Questions remain about some areas of the Rayonier property. Project managers, engineers, and archeologists need to better understand what is below the ground surface and where contamination is before Rayonier can plan cleanup of the Study Area. Rayonier is digging pits in certain areas of the property where more information is needed.

Targeted test pits

An excavator digs the pits in selected areas, stopping to allow sampling at different depths. A field geologist or engineer keeps a written record of the subsurface conditions in the test pits. On the Rayonier property, an archeologist also watches for anything of historical significance. Soils removed from the pit are separated by layers so they can be replaced in the order removed.

Taking a sample

Samples are collected from each pit at several depths. Samples of the soil are scraped from the side walls of the pit, placed into clean glass jars, labeled and sent to the lab. When the pit is shallow, the sampler can collect the samples while standing in the pit. When the pit is deeper, it would not be safe to enter the pit, so the sample must be collected from the bucket of the excavator. The excavator bucket and all the tools used are cleaned between pits.

Some types of contamination cannot be seen and must be determined by the results from the lab. Other types of contamination leave a visible stain on the soil, produce a sheen on water, or can be detected by a photoionization detector (PID). If work crews saw or detected contamination, they separated the material and placed it in a container to be removed from the property.


Around the Sound: Talking with Everett residents, plus other Sound news

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

A couple of us in the Toxics Cleanup Program hit the road this week to talk with some Everett residents about some work we’re doing practically in their back yards.
On Tuesday (Jan. 18), Andy Kallus and I met with the Bayside Neighborhood Association. Andy is our baywide coordinator for 10 cleanup projects we’re doing in and around Port Gardner Bay under the Puget Sound Initiative.

The Bayside group is among five neighborhoods that encompass the Port Gardner sites. (You can read more about Everett's neighborhoods and see a map of their boundaries.)

This was a good chance for us to speak directly to people who live near cleanup sites, instead of depending on media to report on what is happening. The participants asked good questions, and found out where they can learn more about the projects and who they can contact.

Here’s a link to information about our Port Gardner projects.

In other news:
  • The Seattle Times reported on unusually murky water in Elliott Bay and other bodies.

  • The Kitsap Sun wrote about how the Environmental Protection Agency is removing an old water treatment facility at the Wyckoff Superfund site on Bainbridge Island. The site was the home of a wood-treatment plant. Now it’s loaded with about a million gallons of creosote contamination on the edge of Puget Sound. Ecology is working with EPA to come up with a long-term solution for the site.

  • The Kitsap Sun also has this piece on the continued discussion on the future of the Port Gamble area on the Kitsap Peninsula. Port Gamble is another of our high-priority bays under the Puget Sound Initiative – you can read more about that effort here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fecal Matters: Sewage Spill Impacts Budd Inlet

BEACH Program Update

Thurston County Health Department released the following press release today:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, January 07, 2011
Contacts:
Art Starry, Environmental Health Director, 360-867-2587
Sue Davis, Senior Environmental Health Specialist, 360-867-2643

SEWAGE SPILL IMPACTS BUDD INLET

Thurston County Health Department advises citizens to avoid all water contact activities in lower Budd Inlet for seven days following a sewage spill that occurred Thursday, January 5th. Untreated sewage was discharged from a pump station into the West Bay area of Budd Inlet for about 90 minutes between noon and 5:00 PM Thursday, after a sewer line began leaking. The city of Olympia estimates that approximately 32,930 gallons of sewage spilled into the inlet and approximately 22,500 gallons of sewage spilled onto the ground. The city of Olympia repaired the sewer line and cleaned-up the immediate area.

The Health Department advises citizens to avoid all water contact activities for seven days in lower Budd Inlet, south of a line drawn between Priest Point Park on the east shore and West Bay Marina on the west shore. There is an on-going advisory against shellfish harvesting and water contact recreation in this area.


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.

An advisory has been issued for West Bay Park and Priest Point Park (this beach is posted with a permanent advisory for water contact). Visit the BEACH Map to see beach closures across the coast and sound. Surf the web before you surf the beach!

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Manager.
She is available at 360-407-6159 or jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov for questions.

Air Time: Ecology burn bans end in Eastern WA

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Burn bans expired today (Friday, Jan. 7, 2011) in several Eastern Washington counties because air quality is expected to improve there.

Ecology’s Stage 2 burn ban for Kittitas County and Stage 1 bans in Chelan, Douglas, Okanogan, and Asotin counties ended at 10 a.m. A cold front is expected to move into Eastern Washington today and help clear out stagnant air that has been trapping air pollution in those areas.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices (such as wood stoves and fireplaces) builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

Here are some helpful links:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Join Washington’s King Tide Photo Initiative

By Johanna Ofner and Eli Levitt, Climate Policy Group

High tide flooding in La Connor, Washington, January 20, 2010, Photo by Ed Knight

Grab your cameras and hit the beaches!

Washington is joining other West Coast states and provinces by asking citizens to document upcoming extreme high tides — or “king tides” — in January and February.
These naturally-occurring extreme tidal events give us the ability to better understand and visualize the potential impacts of coastal flooding.

Window on sea level rise

From California to British Columbia, individuals will share their king tide photographs to help us all visualize how ongoing higher sea levels may alter our coastal communities.

King tides are a natural phenomenon that happen once or twice a year when the gravitational pull by our sun and moon reinforce one another. While king tides are not caused by climate change, they do give us a pretty dramatic glimpse into what impacts sea level rise may have on Puget Sound and our outer coast.

Point, shoot, upload and tag

In Washington, individuals are encouraged to submit their photos of the extreme high tides to the Washington King Tide Photo Initiative Flickr page. For information about high tides in your area, instructions on how to submit your photos to the Flickr page, or more detailed information about king tides and climate change, see Ecology’s king tides website.

Sea level rise happening at an accelerated rate

Since the Industrial Revolution, sea levels around the globe have risen about eight inches. We anticipate levels are going to keep rising at an accelerating pace. The rise is due largely to ocean warming combined with melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets.

Using a mid-range estimate, a study by Ecology and the University of Washington projects that sea level will increase 13 inches by 2100 in Puget Sound and 11 inches on Washington’s central and southern coasts. Sea level rise of this magnitude is expected to increase coastal flooding and coastal erosion, which threatens Washington’s coastal communities.

Understanding impacts first step toward preparation

Understanding the impacts of sea level rise is a priority for the Department of Ecology. By documenting the possible impacts of sea level rise, we can more clearly understand what current and future generations can expect along Washington’s more than 3,000 miles of tidal coastline.

To learn more about the Washington King Tide Photo Initiative:

Air Time: Stagnant air means longer (and more) burn bans

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Continued stagnant air conditions throughout Eastern Washington are prompting Ecology to extend burn bans in some counties and issue new bans in others.

This morning (Tuesday, Jan. 4), we extended the Stage 2 ban in Kittitas County and the Stage 1 bans in Chelan and Douglas counties.

We also issued Stage 1 bans in Okanogan and Asotin counties. That came after earlier bans in those two counties expired on Monday.

Basically, the air in Eastern Washington — indeed, in most of the state — just isn't moving enough to "scrub out" the smoke that's lingering in communities.

In fact, the National Weather Service has issued an air stagnation advisory for most of Eastern Washington.

We don't ban burning without careful consideration. We issue bans after analyzing what our monitors tell us about air quality in specific counties. State law directs us to issue burn bans when levels of fine particles in smoke reach certain levels, and current and forecasted weather conditions show those levels won't drop anytime soon.

Smoke from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

And in 2010, the American Heart Association made a strong statement about how air pollution — including fine particles like those included in wood smoke — can damage your heart.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves and uncertified inserts is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

Under a Stage 2 ban, like the one in Kittitas County, use of all wood-burning devices — even ones certified as being cleaner-burning — is prohibited.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and home heating burn ban web page.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It’s very similar to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

The difference is that WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy earlier, when fewer fine particles are in the air. For more information, see this Ecology focus sheet.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Air Time: Ecology burn bans extended in Chelan, Douglas counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is extending burn bans now in effect in Chelan and Douglas counties.

Bans have expired in several other Eastern Washington counties.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday (Jan. 4, 2011) for Chelan and Douglas counties. Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces, and to all outdoor burning.

Meanwhile, Stage 1 burn bans will expire as scheduled at 10 a.m. today (Monday, Jan. 3) in these counties: Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, Walla Walla, Stevens, Ferry, and Okanogan counties.

Smoke from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves and uncertified inserts is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/burn_ban.htm.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It’s very similar to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

###

See a list of certified wood stoves and clean burning tips

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Air Time: Ecology upgrades Kittitas County burn ban to highest level

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

On Sunday (Jan. 2), Ecology upgraded a burn ban in Kittitas County to Stage 2 because air pollution levels caused by smoke are not dropping.

Ecology’s Stage 2 burn ban for Kittitas County is effective immediately and will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday (Jan. 4). The Stage 2 ban applies to use of all wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces, and to all outdoor burning.

Under a Stage 2 ban:
  • Use of all types of fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning — including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

Smoke from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and burn ban web site.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Air Time: Ecology issues burn bans for several E WA counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

I just sent out this news release on Saturday, Jan. 1, to media throughout Eastern Washington and to various listservs ...


Cold, stagnant air throughout Eastern Washington is trapping smoke pollution near the ground, worsening air quality and prompting the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to issue burn bans in several counties.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans take effect at 4 p.m. today (Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011) and will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday (Jan. 3, 2011) for these counties:
  • Asotin, Garfield, Columbia, and Walla Walla counties in the southeast.

  • Stevens, Ferry, Okanogan, Chelan, and Douglas counties across the north.

  • Kittitas County on the east slopes of the Cascade Mountains.

Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces, and to all outdoor burning.

Smoke from outdoor burning, wood stoves and fireplaces is likely to build up where cold air is trapped near the ground. Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

“We’re starting the new year with generally increasing concentrations of fine smoke particles across Eastern Washington,” said Clint Bowman of Ecology’s Air Quality Program.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves and uncertified inserts is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington.

For updates, check local media reports, Ecology’s daily burn decision hotline (1-800-406-5322) and www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/outdoor_woodsmoke/burn_ban.htm.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution should limit the time they spend outdoors. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse.

Ecology recommends that people limit vehicle trips, combine errands or use public transportation to reduce air pollution.

You can track air quality in your area by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA). This is Ecology’s tool for informing people about the health effects of air pollution, including fine particles. It’s very similar to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s national information tool, the Air Quality Index (AQI). Both use color-coded categories to show when air quality is good, moderate or unhealthy.

The difference is that WAQA shows that air quality is unhealthy earlier, when fewer fine particles are in the air. For more information, see this Ecology focus sheet.

###

See a list of certified wood stoves and clean burning tips.