Friday, May 27, 2011

Fecal Matters: Do your part to keep the beach safe and clean

BEACH Program Update

Do you love seeing trash, dirty diapers, or dog poop on your favorite beach?

Neither do we. It’s gross to look at and it’s also dangerous. Bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants can easily get from the beach to the water, and then to you when you swim or wade.

This summer, do your part to keep your swimming spots clean and safe. Every little bit helps make sure Washington’s gorgeous beaches stay that way.

What can you do?

  • Pick up trash and throw it away. If your beach doesn’t have a garbage can, bring your trash home and throw it away there. Things like dirty diapers belong in the trash, not on the beach.

  • Scoop your pet’s poop. A lot of beaches have pet waste stations with bags and trash cans but if yours doesn’t, use your own plastic bag to scoop the poop and throw it away.

  • If you see a problem at the beach, report it. Oil or sewage spills, broken bathroom facilities, and other issues can be reported to park rangers, your local health agency, or the state Departments of Ecology and Health.

  • Take part in beach clean-up days. Washington Coast Savers, the Ocean Conservancy, and tons of local groups organize beach clean-up days every year, so pitch in!
Keep your beaches clean and remember to surf the web before you surf the beach!

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fecal Matters: The best protection is prevention!

BEACH Program Update

It’s Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week and that means it’s time to take a look at what you’re doing to protect yourself at the beach. Recreational water illnesses and injuries can happen to anyone; you can protect yourself by being informed and taking steps to stay safe.

Make sure your beach is safe for swimming before you go. The BEACH Program monitors water quality all summer and tells the public when bacteria levels raise the risk of illness. Surf the web before you surf the beach, pay attention to posted signs, and don’t let the water make you sick!

Germs love the beach too!

From diarrhea to swimmer’s itch, recreational water illnesses can affect all swimmers at a pool, lake, or ocean beach. But it’s easy to protect yourself and prevent illnesses.
  • Be informed! Check the status of your beach before you go.
  • Cover up cuts and scrapes to keep bacteria out.
  • Don’t swallow water when you’re swimming and splashing around.
  • If you’re sick, stay out of the water to make sure you don’t make others sick, too!

If you do get sick after swimming, see your doctor. Some of the germs in water that cause illnesses can be very serious so it’s important to get checked out.

It’s also important to protect yourself with sunscreen and be aware of potential hazards at the beach. Stay safe and you’ll be able to enjoy many more days of sun, sand, and waves.

Want more information?

Check out the CDC’s Healthy Swimming and Recreational Water website for more information and tips on safe, healthy swimming. Remember to check the status of your local beach and become a fan of the BEACH Program on Facebook.

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Updated Network for Climate Education!

By Johanna Ofner, Carbon Smart Initiative; Washington Conservation Corps (WCC)

Are you a teacher looking for resources to help students learn about climate change? Do you work for a local or state government agency and want to know what other agencies are doing about climate change education? Are you just mildly curious about who’s teaching about climate change, what they’re doing, and how?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, do we have a resource for you! Ecology maintains a list of folks who are part of a loose-knit network of climate educators. In these times of shrinking budgets and staffs, an education network helps provide resources and cuts down on duplication of effort.

We recently updated the network database. So check it out! Learn, engage and take action on climate change. And please, if you know of any other resources that should be added, let us know!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Washington Stormwater Center leads research to manage rainwater runoff

By Sandy Howard, Department of Ecology communications

If anybody’s going to figure out how to solve pollution problems caused by rainwater runoff, it’s going to be Washington, right?

It’s true: Our state is at the front of the pack in researching new tools and methods to protect our lakes, rivers and marine waters and aquatic life from polluted stormwater runoff.

Officials gathered May 20 to recognize the fact and dedicate the new Washington Stormwater Center. The Center is at WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center. It's a great, new idea that’s just getting legs.

If you got too close during part of the event, you might have gotten wet! Watch this 49-second video and see thirsty pavement gulp down a bucket of water. It’s a new type of parking lot pavement the Center’s low impact development (LID) program is testing.

Two Department of Ecology grants helped start the Washington Stormwater Center and its work. Ecology provided $1 million to the universities and their partner, the City of Puyallup, for the Center and its stormwater technology review work. In an earlier grant, Ecology provided $1 million for the LID research facility at WSU’s Puyallup campus.

The Washington Stormwater Center is shaping up to be everything the Legislature envisioned and more. Josh Baldi, Ecology’s special assistant for water quality and Puget Sound, who spoke at the event, said the Center’s role is pivotal in transitioning stormwater management from ‘words on paper’ in permits, to actions on the ground that helps keep polluted runoff from harming our waters.

Other dignitaries in attendance included U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks (by phone), Washington State University President Elson S. Floyd, EPA Region 10 Administrator, Dennis McClerran, Puyallup Tribe of Indians Tribal Council Chairman Herman Dillon Sr., Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner, Puget Sound Partnership Executive Director Gerry O’Keefe, Tacoma-Pierce County Economic Development President Bruce Kendall and Pierce County Public Works Director Brian Ziegler.

For more information, see the story in The News Tribune and Washington State University’s news release. Pierce County News also covered the event.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fecal Matters: BEACH sampling season is here!

BEACH Program Update

Sunscreen? Check. Swimsuit? Check. Water sampling results? Check!

The sun is peeking out from behind the clouds and the weather is finally warming up, which means it’s time to check the health status of your favorite swimming beach.

Starting this week, we’re hitting the beaches of Puget Sound and the Pacific coast to kick off the 2011 swimming beach sampling season. More than 70 popular marine beaches in Washington will be monitored all summer and the results posted on the BEACH Program website each week.
While most of our beaches are sampled by BEACH Program partners in your local health agency, some are sampled by volunteers with organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and the WSU Extension Beach Watchers.

The Washington BEACH Program monitors public marine swimming beaches in Washington and gets the word out to beachgoers through a website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, blog, and email listserv.

Fecal Matters

What exactly are we looking for in the water? Poop! We test for an indicator bacteria that lets us know if there’s poop in the water. If there is, you could get sick from the bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants that might be there, too. Nobody wants to end their day on the beach with swimmer’s itch, diarrhea, or worse.

You can keep yourself safe by checking to see if your beach is being monitored and paying attention to signs on the beach. Just like a traffic light, colored BEACH Program signs let you know if you should stop and avoid water contact, be careful and be aware of potential risks, or go enjoy.

Get Involved

Let us know where you think we should monitor next year! We’re always looking for suggestions so if you know a popular beach that we’ve missed, let us know.

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Friday, May 20, 2011

Around the Sound: Anacortes welcomes a new gem

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

See more site photos on Flickr On a picture-perfect sunny day, Anacortes-area residents flocked to the shore of Fidalgo Bay today to officially welcome the community's newest addition.

The Port of Anacortes hosted a celebration for the formal reopening of Seafarers' Memorial Park on the land that once housed Scott Paper mills. While the park has existed for a while, its new, expanded form is now fully open.

Click here for a slideshow with photos of how the Scott Paper site once looked, and how it is now. John Herzog of GeoEngineers, who helped shape the cleanup and the current park, provided the photos.

The event represents a number of milestones. For one, the park now offers unprecedented public access to the shore of Fidalgo Bay. For another, the cleanup work removed significant contamination from the local environment and clears the way for habitat and the environment to heal. On top of that, the project brought in dozens of construction jobs during its 2-plus years, which spread money throughout the Anacortes community during rough economic times.

And from Ecology's standpoint, it's a shining example of the kind of work we're doing to clean up polluted industrial sites under the Governor's Puget Sound Initiative.

Successful Partnership

The former Scott Paper site is the largest — physically and financially — yet undertaken through the initiative. And because of the great partnership that Ecology forged with the Port of Anacortes and Kimberly-Clark (the company which bought Scott Paper and took on the cleanup responsibility), this project went about as smoothly and quickly as any such large effort could.

Tim Nord, who headed Ecology's cleanup team, noted that it takes an average of 16 years to clean up a federal Superfund sight in the Puget Sound area. The state needs an average of 12 years for a Puget Sound cleanup.

In this case, the former Scott Paper site cleanup took 5 years and seven days from first meeting of the project's participating parties to today's celebration.

It took a lot of work to make it happen. Port project manager Becky Darden praised the many companies that performed the cleanup and the park work.

Julien Loh, the Northwest representative for Gov. Chris Gregoire, noted the litany of contractors Darden listed. That shows "environmental cleanup does mean jobs," Loh said.

Community Benefits

And it means much more for Anacortes. Ecology's Nord pointed out that the Fidalgo Bay habitat will include to improve as each year goes, as the environment heals and restoration work (like the planting of eelgrass in the bay) takes hold.

Port Commission President Keith Rubin said local residents can enjoy the park for generations to come. People can picnic, listen to summer concerts, perhaps meet and fall in love. They can even marry at the park's building and in time bring their own children to play at the park.

The crowd inside the Seafarers' Memorial Park building laughed in appreciation.

Outside, people played with Frisbees on the grass, strolled on the new walkway, sailed radio-controlled boats off the new dock, and walked a beach free of wood waste and contamination.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stimulus money pays for cleaning up Bothell site

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Cleanup work funded by federal stimulus dollars is in full swing at a Bothell convenience store and gas station.

A crew from Snohomish-based Wyser Construction is removing gasoline-contaminated soil at the Bothell BP site. Gasoline also has been found in groundwater there.

Ecology has a $287,000 contract with Wyser for the work. The money comes from Toxics Cleanup Program’s share of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or “stimulus” funding. The Toxics Cleanup Program is using the money to evaluate and clean up some sites contaminated by leaking petroleum products from underground storage tank sites.

Ecology has put stimulus money to good use. Here’s a rundown of what the agency has done.

At the Bothell BP site, Wyser has about 20 employees supporting the project. Work began May 15; Wyser removed and backfilled about 550 tons of soil on the first day. The “steaming” shown in the photo actually is dust from an organic release compound used to treat groundwater.

We expect the project to wrap up June 11.

The site, built in 1958, originally housed a full-service gasoline station. Shell Oil Co. operated the facility until 1974, when it was sold to its current owner. From 1974 to the present, the current owner has operated a convenience store and gasoline station there. In 1990, five underground storage tanks were removed from an area south of the pump island and new tanks were installed north of the store. Testing showed gasoline contamination in soil and groundwater. Ecology installed six monitoring wells on the site in 1993.

In 2010, Ecology did more testing to better identify the location and extent of contamination.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Air Time: Rounding up some air quality issues

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology is working to delay the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of biomass and other biofuels to fall in line with federal rules.

Ecology recently updated two rules, Chapters 173-400 and 173-401 WAC, to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “tailoring rule.” This “tailoring rule” phases in regulation of greenhouse gases.

The EPA rule, however, sparked controversy over its treatment of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of biomass and biofuels. As a result, EPA now says it will amend its rule to temporarily defer greenhouse gas permitting requirements for sources that burn biomass and other biologically based fuels.

Once EPA’s amendments take effect, state rules will be inconsistent and could lead businesses to have to meet two sets of reporting and permitting standards. Ecology’s rule-making process will bring state rules in line with EPA and save affected businesses from having to meet different regulatory requirements.

Other topics:

Sulfur dioxide standard

In June 2010, EPA changed standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. EPA lowered the one-hour average standard from 400 parts per billion to 75 parts per billion.

Ecology proposes to designate the entire state as “unclassifiable” since there is not enough information to demonstrate whether the state meets or does not meet the new standard.

Historically, Washington has measured very low levels of SO2. Because the levels were so low, most monitoring was stopped. Ecology does not expect to have any areas of the state exceed the new SO2 standard, but we plan to eventually establish two new monitors to confirm that assumption.

SO2 emissions have dropped over the past 20 years. That’s because control measures were added for some sources, some larger SO2 sources shut down, and the sulfur content of gasoline and diesel fuel was cut by nearly 90 percent.

Ecology will schedule a public hearing on this decision if the public requests one by May 26. To find out how to request a hearing, contact Laurie Hulse-Moyer at For more information, check here for Ecology’s public involvement calendar.

Agreement with EPA

Ecology is accepting public comments on the draft of a new Performance Partnership Agreement with EPA’s Region 10.

The agreement details contractual commitments between Ecology and EPA, including those involving air quality issues.
You can find the draft agreement here. And here’s how to comment on it.

DNR burn ban

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently announced that a burn ban starts July 1 on all DNR-protected lands.

The ban, which is meant to limit the threat of wildfires sparked by outdoor burning, will continue through Sept. 3o. It does not apply to recreational fires in fire pits at campgrounds or to DNR’s own prescribed burns for forest health purposes.

Here’s a DNR news release on the ban.

Around the Sound: News and notes...

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

A number of news items to catch up on...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fecal Matters: Healthy swimming could be your big break!

Whether you have a knack for filmmaking or just want to keep your friends and family healthy this summer, now is your chance to get creative.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sponsoring a healthy swimming video contest as part of Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week (May 23-27). Be creative and get the word out about ways to stay healthy when swimming this summer! The winning video will receive $1,000 and be posted on CDC’s Healthy Swimming website and CDC’s YouTube channel.

Entries must be no more than 60 seconds long and must contain specific messages about safe and healthy swimming:

  • Protect yourself and other swimmers from recreational water illness (RWIs)—illnesses caused by germs that are found in places where we swim.

  • Chlorine does not kill all germs instantly.

  • Never swim when you have diarrhea.

  • When swimming, keep water out of your mouth.

  • Videos should also direct people to for more information.

Learn more on CDC's Healthy Swimming Video Contest webpage. You can find contest details and submit your original video entry online at The deadline for submissions is July 4, 2011 at 11:59 pm.

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Thursday, May 12, 2011

High tides hit Monday...grab your camera!

by the Puget Sound Partnership

Some higher than normal tides will be coming May 16-18, creating an opportunity for great picture taking, and a hint at what impacts global sea-level rise might have on our area. While the early week tides are not "King Tides," which are the highest predicted high tides of the year, they are expected to be significantly higher than average.

Recent scientific studies project that global sea-level will rise 3-5 feet by 2100. Sea-level rise impacts should be considered when investing in roads, sewers, and other infrastructure, developing homes and businesses, and restoring natural areas.

Photographs and videos taken during May's higher than normal water levels can be used to generate local publicity for an October King Tide Campaign, planned by EPA's Climate Ready Estuaries, to educate people about sea-level rise impacts, so that responsible management and planning decisions can be made to better protect estuaries of national significance from adverse climate change impacts.

Visit NOAA's "Tidal Prediction" web-page to look up the time of day when the highest tides will occur on May 16, 17 and 18.

To share your high tide photos, join our Flickr group.

For more information about past photo initiatives, see Ecology's King Tides page.

To get involved in Puget Sound Partnership activities, join their ECOnet outreach network.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Air Time: Report says recycling, composting help fight climate change

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

It’s already pretty clear that it’s good to recycle and compost waste materials when possible, instead of throwing them in the garbage or burning them.

For example, recycled materials are used in a variety of consumer goods and in other ways. Composting yard waste produces quality lawn-care material and other benefits. And keeping yard waste and recyclable items out of the landfills means we lessen the need for more landfill space.

From an air quality standpoint, burning yard waste produces smoke that harms the people who breathe it and the overall environment. That's why it is banned in most areas of Washington. (And burning garbage is illegal throughout the state.)

We encourage people to use alternatives to burning, including composting.

Now a new report says diverting recyclable and compostable materials from the waste stream can lead to significant reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

The West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum produced the report, called “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Recycling and Composting.” The group is made up of city, county, state, and tribal governments. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leads this partnership.

According to the report, recycling or composting many items commonly found in the waste streams in Washington, Oregon and California could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 32 million metric tons.

That’s like taking 6.3 million cars off the road for a year.

The authors also say their report shows that recycling and composting contribute significantly to the green economy.

“Recycling or composting just half of core recyclables and food scraps currently in the three-state waste streams would yield almost $1.6 billion in additional salaries and wages, $818 million in additional goods and services produced, and $309 million in additional sales across the West Coast,” the report says.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Air Time: It's Air Quality Awareness Week

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

It’s national Air Quality Awareness Week (May 2-6), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering a handy, day-by-day breakdown of some common air quality issues. Today’s offerings are on ozone and fine particles.

Fine particles

This also is Wildfire Awareness Week, which is fitting because the smoke from wildfires can be a major source of unhealthy fine particles.

Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause or worsen heart and breathing problems like asthma, and even lead to death. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

For the past two years, Ecology’s Air Quality Program and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have teamed up to swap new compost bins for burn barrels. It’s illegal to use burn barrels in Washington, which are a common cause of wildfires.

Unfortunately, DNR and Ecology weren’t able to obtain any grant money to continue the program this year.

This news release details the dangers of wildfire smoke, how you can use alternatives to burning yard waste and how you can protect yourself against breathing harmful wildfire smoke.


There are two kinds of ozone. “Good” ozone forms naturally about 10 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface. It helps protect life on Earth from the sun’s harmful rays.

But ozone at ground level is considered “bad.” It is the main ingredient of smog, and can cause health problems.

Ground-level ozone is a gas created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. Vehicle and industrial emissions, gasoline vapors, chemical solvents, and natural sources emit NOx and VOCs that help form ground-level ozone. Many urban areas tend to have high levels of ozone. But high ozone levels can also be found in rural areas, because wind carries ozone and ozone-forming pollutants hundreds of miles away from their sources.

EPA has announced plans to lower the ozone standard to better protect human health and the environment. But the decision has been delayed, so we’re still waiting to see how that might affect communities in Washington.

Unhealthy ozone levels can affect people with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active. Breathing ozone can:
  • Trigger airway irritation, coughing and pain when taking a deep breath.
  • Cause wheezing and breathing difficulties during exercise or outdoor activities.
  • Inflame lung tissue.
  • Aggravate asthma.
  • Increase susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Permanently scar lung tissue after repeated exposures.

Here are some of the actions you can take to reduce ozone where you live:
  • Drive less. Combine errands or use public transportation.
  • Postpone travel until cooler evening hours, if possible.
  • Don’t use lawnmowers or other small engines that emit air pollutants.
  • Observe bans on outdoor burning because of high fire danger and health protection.
  • Don’t idle your engine. Turn it off while your vehicle is parked or waiting in line.
  • Wait for cooler morning or evening hours to refuel your vehicle.
  • Don’t paint or use aerosol sprays until temperatures cool off.

Around the Sound: Wrapup of big Anacortes project worth celebrating

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Work is finished on the largest cleanup project yet tackled under the Puget Sound Initiative.

That’s the $34 million cleanup of the former Scott Paper mill site on the Anacortes waterfront on the shore of Fidalgo Bay.

The Port of Anacortes currently owns part of the site. The port and Kimberly-Clark Corp., which purchased Scott Paper and was liable for helping to clean up the overall site, worked with Ecology to get the work done.

Here’s part of a Skagit Valley Herald article about the project. (The full article is only available to the newspaper’s subscribers.)

The article mentions a May 20 celebration of the project’s completion, which is planned on the portion of the site known as Seafarers’ Memorial Park. Here’s a Port of Anacortes notice about the event.

You can read some more background about the site and the cleanup in this Ecology news release from June 2009 announcing the start of the project.

The Puget Sound Initiative is an effort by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental communities, scientists, and the public to restore and protect the health of the Sound. Ecology is working on dozens of sites around the Sound under this effort, including focusing on several bays that include several sites:
  • Fidalgo/Padilla bays in Skagit County (including the Scott Paper site).
  • Port Gardner Bay at Everett.
  • Port Angeles Harbor.
  • Budd Inlet at Olympia.
  • Oakland Bay in Mason County.
  • Port Gamble Bay on the Kitsap Peninsula.
  • Dumas Bay in King County.