Thursday, June 30, 2011

Around the Sound: Sampling data from the Rayonier Mill property now available

By Marian Abbett, Site Manager

We have reached another milestone in the cleanup of the Rayonier Mill site in Port Angeles on schedule! On June 15, Rayonier submitted the draft Upland Data Collection Technical Memo. This memo pulls together most of the data Rayonier collected on its property between August 2010 and March 2011.

Rayonier collected soil, groundwater, and surface water samples from across the former mill property to fill data gaps from previous studies. This was done in four phases, with lab analysis between each phase. Read more about this work in earlier Rayonier blog posts.

What happens next?
Rayonier will use the information from the technical memo to draft their Upland Data Summary Report. This report, combined with information about sediment contamination, will help Rayonier develop a plan for cleaning up the Study Area—the mill property and nearby marine environment. Rayonier is still on track to complete the plan in 2013.

On a side note…
In April, we removed an old restrictive covenant from the property. A 1992 Ecology enforcement order required cleanup in the area of the Finishing Room along Ennis Creek. As part of the partial cleanup, a restrictive covenant was placed on the property to protect the remedy. In 1998 and 2002, Rayonier removed the remaining contamination from that area, making the restrictive covenant no longer necessary.


Fecal Matters: Windjammer Beach Park & Lagoon Update (Island County)

BEACH Program Update
Updated 7/1/2011

Island County Public Health marine water sampling identified high bacteria levels at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor on 6/28. A permanent swimming advisory is posted for the beach at the Park. The saltwater swimming lagoon also had elevated levels and Staff collected additional samples on 6/30 and results came back low for the lagoon so a swimming advisory is not warranted. But remember to avoid water contact at the beach, especially around stormwater drainage pipes.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Coordinator and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6159.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fecal Matters: Washington's BEACH Program - the best information source for saltwater beach health

BEACH Program Update

Washington's BEACH Program -- the best information source for saltwater beach health

A recent wave of "beach report cards" about beach health in our state points out the value of a reliable, trusted source of timely, accurate information, and in our state, the best source is the Washington BEACH (Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health) Program.

The state's BEACH Program will help you stay safe while playing at marine swimming beaches. BEACH notifies the public when bacteria results are high, and educates people about what they can do to avoid getting sick from playing in saltwater that may be contaminated with bacteria.

The program is jointly coordinated by the Departments of Ecology and Health. It is implemented by local health jurisdictions, tribal nations and volunteers.

"Our partnerships with local health departments and volunteers are the strength of the BEACH Program," said Julie Lowe, who manages the program. "These local partners collect weekly samples so we can test for fecal pollution and notify the public when we have problems."

BEACH uses its website, social network, email announcements and swimming advisory signs to provide immediate notification to the public when the risk of illness is increased.

The program's scientifically credible monitoring strategy involves weekly sampling from highly used beaches and immediate notification when bacteria levels do not meet human health standards.

Lowe encourages people to look for posted signs at the beach or visit the BEACH Program website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/beach/index.html), the best source of timely, accurate information about high use marine swimming beaches and our program.

This year, the federally funded BEACH Program is monitoring about 70 of the state's most popular saltwater beaches. That's up from 52 beaches last year, thanks to additional funding for Puget Sound beaches from the Environmental Protection Agency's National Estuary Program.

The program targets popular beaches near potential sources of pollution. While the main goal is to monitor water quality and notify the public when bacteria levels are high, BEACH also works with local and state partners to investigate and correct the problems whenever possible.

Learn more from BEACH by tapping in to the following links:
Do your part to keep beaches clean:
  • Scoop and bag pet poop and throw it in the trash.
  • Inspect and maintain your home septic system.
  • Pump your recreational boat holding tank into an authorized pump station.
  • Pick up all of your trash at the beach, especially diapers.

Learn more about how you can help protect our waters at Ecology's education website, Washington Waters - Ours to Protect (www.ecy.wa.gov/washington_waters/ )

Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at julie.lowe@ecy.wa.gov or at 360-407-6543.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Air Time: Ecology grant helps Poulsbo Fire protect air, people, taxpayer money

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology’s Air Quality Program and the Poulsbo Fire Department put together a neat project that will cut air pollution, protect people’s health and save taxpayers’ money.

Poulsbo Fire is using a $39,000 grant from Ecology to install new idle reduction technology on some emergency vehicles.

Responders must keep the engines of emergency vehicles idling at an incident scene to provide power to the emergency lights and equipment chargers, and to eliminate any chance the vehicle may not restart.

These new idle reduction systems enable firefighters to turn off the engine but still keep the emergency lights running without draining the vehicle’s battery. This cuts toxic air emissions, reduces use of expensive fuel, and avoids costly wear and tear on the vehicle’s diesel engine.

You can read a complete news release on the project.

This is just one of several efforts that the Air Quality Program is making to reduce harmful diesel emissions. Since 2003, Ecology’s Clean Diesel Program has helped to reduce harmful diesel emissions from more than 8,000 engines. Most of those are public school bus engines.

Ecology has identified diesel exhaust as the air pollutant most harmful to public health in Washington. Seventy percent of the cancer risk from airborne pollutants is from diesel exhaust. It makes healthy people more at risk for respiratory disease and worsens the symptoms of people with health problems such as asthma, heart disease and lung disease.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Product stewardship is responsible 21st century "waste" management

by Kara Steward, Waste 2 Resources Program

The E-Cycle Program collects and recycles televisions, monitors, and computers.
The E-Cycle Program collects and recycles televisions, monitors, and computers.
Do you ever wonder how local governments ended up responsible for waste management? A century ago, crowding and waste in industrial cities gave rise to repeated disease epidemics. Fear of these epidemics created political support for public investment in sanitation infrastructure.

Clean water and sewerage came first, and later, at the beginning of the 20th century, collection and disposal of municipal refuse. Cities took on waste disposal responsibilities.

But at the beginning of the 20th century, municipal refuse was different than it is today. It was mostly coal ash and food scraps, with a small proportion of simple manufactured products like paper and glass. Today, 71 percent of our waste is products and packaging, some containing toxic components. Garbage has changed significantly over the last 100 years, but our waste management system has not. *

Today, local governments and ratepayers fund the collection, recycling, and disposal of increasing amounts of packaging and products. Some call this “welfare for waste.” Others view it as financially unsustainable, especially in these economic times. There are better ways to manage resources and reduce waste.

Future waste management system

Product stewardship (also called Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR) is the way of the future for our waste management system. Product stewardship is a policy that requires those who design, market and use products and packaging to share responsibility for end-of-life management of those materials.

Product stewardship programs require:
  • Producers to finance the take-back and recycling of their product and encourages product redesign to minimize wastes and toxics.
  • Consumers to properly use and dispose of the product.
  • Governments to set standards and enforce the laws.
In other words, if you design it, produce it, sell it, or use it -- you have a role to play in the responsibility for the impact on the health and environment for the product’s full life cycle.

Washington’s product stewardship programs

Washington State has two product stewardship laws – for electronics and mercury lights. When it started in 2009, the E-Cycle Washington program was an immediate success. This summer we will reach the 100,000,000 pound milestone for computers, monitors, and televisions recycled through E-Cycle Washington.

Since 2009, E-Cycle has collected almost 100 million pounds of covered electronics.
Since 2009, E-Cycle has collected almost 100 million pounds of covered electronics.

The stewardship program for mercury-containing lights is under development, and will be in place by January of 2013. The 2011 legislative session included four product stewardship bills: carpet, medical sharps, pharmaceuticals, and adjusting and adding more products to the E-Cycle law.

Product stewardship programs positively affect local government budgets. In 2009, Snohomish County saved $550,000 in collection, hauling and processing costs for electronics. Additionally, county residents have 15 drop-off options, not just the three operated by the county.

Product stewardship leads to less waste, less toxics, provides more sustainable funding, and establishes important feedback loops. It is a key component of the state’s solid and hazardous waste plan, “Beyond Waste.”

For more information on Product Stewardship


* Credit for the above analysis goes to the Product Policy Institute; http://www.productpolicy.org/content/history-waste


Thursday, June 23, 2011

CBC stats students shed light on new soil sampling method

By Erika Holmes, Community Outreach & Environmental Education Specialist, Nuclear Waste Program

Early in 2011, I emailed just about every college instructor in the Tri-Cities area who taught a class that might be remotely related to Hanford. One of the replies came from Linda Rogers, a statistics teacher at Columbia Basin College in Pasco. She had two statistics classes in the spring and very much wanted to work with us. The feeling was mutual.

The preparation

Having focused on visual art and English in college, I needed help designing a Hanford-related statistics project. Ecology chemist Jerry Yokel answered my call. He had stacks and stacks of soil sample data fresh from a professional laboratory. The data needed to be compiled into a spreadsheet and analyzed.

Linda and her daughter Kelly Rogers, a student at CBC and an aspiring cryptographer (cracking codes using math) or professional statistician, spent hours entering all the data into spreadsheets and then compared their numbers to ensure accuracy.

The project

The data reflected soil contamination levels in a dried waste discharge pond in the 200 Area at Hanford. Those levels guide cleanup decisions, and the contaminated soil was removed in August 2010.

However, this soil sampling process also tested something else: a new method of sample collection. Ecology currently uses a systematic sampling process, in which the goal is to collect and analyze approximately 40 soil samples throughout a contaminated area. This process is time consuming and costly.

To improve efficiency, we are trying a new multi-incremental sampling (MIS) process. MIS involves taking 100 evenly spaced scoops of soil in a given area. These scoops are then combined, and a single sample is taken from this mixture to represent the entire area. The composite sample is then extracted and analyzed for contaminant levels. This scooping, combining and analyzing process is repeated five times. If it can be proved that MIS produces results comparable to systematic sampling, the MIS process could improve state standards for soil sample collection and analysis.

CBC students, along with Linda and Kelly, compared the results of both sampling processes and created graphic displays of their findings. The class focused on the project all quarter, so instead of cranking out book assignments, the students addressed the course learning goals by applying them to the data we provided. This process gave them real-world experience using statistics while also practicing teamwork and project management. And because each student wrote a 30- to 40-page report worth 40% of their grade, they also practiced technical writing by explaining and analyzing the graphs and charts they produced.

The “personal” results (technical findings coming soon)

Yesterday, I met with Linda, Kelly and Jerry. Linda gave us the top five student reports, and we’d all like to recognize the excellent work done by Sarah Pedersen, Lorena Perkins, Angela Shaw, Eileen Sheppard, and Kristen Smith (click the author’s name to see her report).

About the project, Angela said, “I am so proud of the completed project and it feels fantastic to have all of my hard work noticed. … I really appreciate the opportunity you gave me and I feel honored to be a part of this project!”

During Jerry’s and my last visit to the class, Kristen described the synergistic effect of being in a history class at the same time. “In that class, we covered the wars and such, but we also took a field trip to the CREHST Museum in Richland. … Working with the data you provided our stats class, I was able to understand most of what was being said during that tour. … I was impressed that, even though this class was very time consuming and I may have had to put more effort in this term, I was able to relate two of the three classes I took this quarter, which made things a lot easier and gave me motivation to keep going.”

Though Linda had to choose the top five reports, the effort that many of the other students put in is no small feat. The project was challenging, but many found the experience rewarding and useful for their future. Two of the students used their reports as part of their nursing program entrance portfolio; others have included the reports in writing portfolios to apply for admission to four-year universities like Washington State and Eastern Washington.

In an email to Linda, who was formerly a professional statistician with the U.S. Department of Defense, student Martin Lop├ęz said, “Thanks for everything you have done for me and the class. … It was a great journey with a great reward. I never felt so accomplished about anything like this before, it is a great feeling, but it was not possible without your critique for improvement. Thank you so much for a great class!”

Stay tuned...

I’ll be reporting on the results soon. Meanwhile, visit our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page to see pictures from the project and CBC’s news release. If you have questions or feedback about the project, please comment below.


THIS IS A DRILL - Flight restrictions

THIS IS A DRILL

June 23, 2011, 11:35 a.m.


NPREP drill is being held at the US Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor, WA.

Temporary Flight Restriction

Unified Command at the Oak Harbor Command Center has established a temporary flight restriction in the area between Gordon Head, Shannon Point and Partridge Point in the Salish Sea. No aircraft may fly below 5,000 feet in this area. The Fedeeral Aviation Administration is broadcasting a “Notice to Airmen.” For more information, check with the FAA at www.FAA.gov/ .


THIS IS A DRILL


THIS IS A DRILL - Avoid Oil

THIS IS A DRILL
June 23, 2011, 10:45 a.m.

NPREP drill is being held at the US Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor, WA

The public is encouraged to avoid contact with oil and oiled shorelines. If you see evidence of oil or oiled materials along the shore please do not touch, but report to 1-800-OILS911 (1-800-645-7911).

Updated information can be found on www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html, or for public inquiries please call 703-669-7741. News media can call 703-669-7740. Financial claims regarding damage from the spill can be made by calling 853-234-5724 for U.S. and 1-800-555-1234 for Canada. Trained volunteers wanting to assist may call 1-800-865-8337.

THIS IS A DRILL

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

THIS IS A DRILL - US-CAN Salish Sea 2011 PREP Exercise

By Mary-Ellen Voss, Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program

Today, Ecology's Spills Program is participating in a full-scale, government-led , multi-agency exercise to test our region's ability to respond to a cross-border spill event.

As part of the drill, a Joint Information Center (JIC) has been established to provide immediate response to the news media and the general public regarding the US-CAN Salish Sea oil spill exercise, in conjunction with the spill’s unified command center.

Representatives from the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards, U.S. Environmental Agency, San Juan and Island counties and the Washington Department of Ecology, are participating.

The drill is being held at the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island Seaplane Base in Building 13.

As part of the drill, we are using Ecology's Spills program website to simulate news updates. Check periodically to see how we're progressing!


Around the Sound: Unusual dolphins! Octopus parenting! And more!

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

The Seattle Times has published a couple of interesting stories about different inhabitants of Puget Sound – some apparently are just visiting, while others make their homes in the Sound.

First up, there’s this story of long-beaked tropical dolphins sighted in the Sound around the Olympia area.

And then there’s this coverage of the life cycle of a mother octopus, including some video shot by divers.

I’m also catching up with stories recently published by the Kitsap Sun:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Multiple agencies respond to Harbor Island diesel spill

image of a derailed Union Pacific engine on Harbor Island. Photo Credit: Chris Wilkerson, Dept of Ecology
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 1:02 a.m., June 21, 2011
Contacts:
  • Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology media relations (509-420-3874)
  • Nate Littlejohn, U.S. Coast Guard public affairs (816-582-1725)
SEATTLE – The Washington Department of Ecology, Union Pacific Railroad, the U.S. Coast Guard, Seattle Public Utilities and a cleanup contractor are responding to a diesel fuel spill from a Union Pacific locomotive on Harbor Island. The spill was reported to Ecology at 7:40 p.m. Monday.

Union Pacific Railroad has hired NRC Environmental Services to conduct the cleanup effort. The contractor estimated that 600 gallons of fuel spilled to the gravel railroad bed when the engine and two railcars went off the track. The release has been stopped, and no impacts to water have been observed.

The locomotive held up to 2,500 gallons of fuel. It was estimated to be carrying 1,500 gallons. The contractor used a vacuum truck to remove the remaining 900 gallons of fuel from the engine.

An investigation is under way on the cause of the derailment. More information about the spill will be provided as it becomes available.

###

Ecology Spills Program: www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html


Monday, June 20, 2011

Around the Sound: Radio interview on Port Gardner Cleanup, plus big spill drill

By Seth Preston, Communication Managers, Toxics Cleanup Program

KSER Radio (90.7 FM) in Everett is featuring an interview today and Tuesday (June 20-21) with Ecology’s baywide coordinator for cleanup work in and around Port Gardner Bay.

Andy Kallus spoke last week with Karen Erickson, host of KSER’s “Seein’ Green” program, about Ecology’s work with local partners like the Port of Everett on cleaning up 10 sites around Port Gardner.

That's a photo of Andy, working last year as an independent contractor during cleanup and recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.

We’ve posted an MP3 of the interview here on Ecology’s website – look under the Spotlight column and click on “KSER Radio interview about cleanups.”

Port Gardner Bay is one of seven high-priority bays that Ecology has identified under the Puget Sound Initiative. Learn more about the bays and the initiative here.

In other news:


This week, Ecology, the U.S. Coast Guard and a number of other participants will conduct a large spill drill near Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.

Here’s an Ecology news release about the drill, plus an article in the Whidbey Examiner newspaper.


Hanford drill tests emergency preparedness teams

By Dieter Bohrmann, Communications Consultant, Nuclear Waste Program

Environmental cleanup at the Hanford nuclear site is complex and potentially hazardous. The U.S. Department of Energy as well as numerous state and local agencies have a stake in ensuring the work is done safely and protectively. A large accident at Hanford could threaten the health of not only workers, but potentially local and regional residents, the environment and even the economy.
On June 16, Hanford’s annual multi-agency emergency drill gave first responders another chance to test their readiness for an incident at the site. The players included the state Emergency Management Division, the Department of Health, Ecology, Benton, Franklin, and Grant counties and the state of Oregon.

This year’s scenario involved a fuel truck that crashed at the Plutonium Finishing Plant. An ensuing fire destroyed 12 drums full of radioactive waste causing a release to the environment and sending much of the site into “take cover” mode.

The basement of the federal building in Richland buzzed with activity as officials monitored the event and collected information from the field. Just down the hall in the Joint Information Center (JIC), public information officers hustled to sort out truth from rumor and issue timely and accurate press releases. An early report of possible gunshots at the accident site led to rumors that the incident may have been intentional. The “popping sounds” thought to be gunshots turned out to be waste drums being breached by the fire.

In this scenario, Ecology’s first step would be making sure staff was accounted for and alerting management in Lacey. Our regulatory role would likely come later, as we assessed the release of waste to the ground or water and worked with the Department of Energy on cleanup plans.

At the debrief session after the exercise, most participants were positive about how it went. Oregon’s public information officer commented that a couple of hours into the drill he felt like it was the real thing. I think others felt the same.

It’s impossible to plan for all incidents, but these exercises are an excellent chance to bring multiple agencies together to see what works and where improvements are needed. While the chances of a major incident at Hanford are remote, it’s important that Ecology and other response teams – while hoping for the best – stay prepared for the worst.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Polluted waters listings will not fix the problem of declining pH on marine waters

By Sandy Howard, Communication Manager, Water Quality program

You might be hearing about the problem of declining pH in our ocean’s waters, also called “ocean acidification.” The Center for Biological Diversity is bringing this topic up once again today.

What is the cause?

What causes declining pH and why is it a problem?

It’s a fact that our earth’s oceans are becoming more and more acidic as they absorb greenhouse gas emissions produced all over the planet. When our ocean water becomes more acidic — or in other words, it declines in pH — marine animals suffer and lose their ability to build the protective shells they need to thrive. In short, declining pH threatens the health of a very important natural resource — our shellfish — and the health of many other marine organisms. The Department of Ecology’s just-out draft 2010 Marine Water Quality Assessment includes the list of the state’s polluted marine waters. Ecology currently has the draft list ready for the public to review. However, the list does not include marine waters that may be affected by declining pH.

The Center for Biological Diversity thinks Washington should include listings for pH in its polluted marine waters list.

Ecology agrees that declining pH in marine waters is a very real problem.

However we think placing these waters on the state’s polluted waters list is the wrong tool to fix the problem.

What is the remedy?

The true remedy for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide getting into the oceans is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Washington uses its list of polluted waters to develop water cleanup plans — Total Maximum Daily Load studies. The heart of a cleanup plan is that it identifies sources of pollution within our state over which it has authority. The cleanup plan then outlines actions to reduce or eliminate the pollution sources to improve water quality.

While Washington undoubtedly produces its own set of greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification is a global problem. Sources of greenhouse gas emissions come from distant locations where our state has no authority.

So listing for ocean pH on our polluted waters list would not lead to effective cleanup strategies and could cause unnecessary requirements for industries in Washington that are not causing the pollution problem.

Furthermore, Ecology’s marine monitoring program has measured pH in marine waters for years. Ocean experts have recently determined that traditional measurements of pH in marine environments are not precise enough because of the complicated chemistry in saltwater. The technology needs to improve so we can get more accurate methods of measuring subtle changes in pH. We are currently working with federal agencies to improve the methods we use to measure pH.

Climate change is real. Ecology is very much involved in finding regional and global solutions to reducing greenhouse gases and we care about solving declining pH in marine waters.

Read more about how Washington is responding to climate change.


Preparing for the big spill

By Barbara MacGregor, Web Communications Manager

Ecology director Ted Sturdevant is briefed on the project by Ecology regional spills response manager Jim Sachet.

“This is a drill.”


That's the phrase the Department of Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and EPA will be using next week as we practice responding to a catastrophic oil spill in the international waters we share with Canada.

We, along with our counterparts from British Columbia, will practice responding to a major simulated "spill" in waters west of Whidbey Island.

The National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (or NPREP, as we call it) will be an invaluable opportunity for all of us to work together toward a common goal: Respond to a major oil spill, work to clean up oil from the water, and help minimize environmental, economic, and cultural impacts.

Boats working together to deploy a boom.Mounting rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated responses requires planning, preparation, and practice.
More than 200 local, tribal, state, federal and private response personnel will staff a Command Center at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor. No oil will be spilled, but folks will see oil containment booming, oil-skimming vessels and work boats, and different types of aircraft operating in the area during the exercise.

One way you can watch us work is by visiting Ecology's website several times June 22 and 23. As part of the drill, we'll convene an inter-agency Joint Information Center designed to get accurate and timely information out to the public and media. We'll post updates and releases under "Hot Topics" in the right hand column of Ecology's Spills Program page.

Remember, this is only a drill. But we will learn invaluable lessons to continue improving our spill readiness and response capabilities so we're better prepared when the real thing happens. And it strenghtens our resolve to prevent oil spills from happening in the first place. Remember, Washington's waters are ours to protect.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Everett Smelter Cleanup: Local office hours start this month

By Meg Bommarito, Everett Smelter Project Manager

Starting in a few weeks, Ecology staff will now be more available to the Everett community to provide information on Everett Smelter cleanup work.

Twice a week from June 28 until the end October, either I or Frank Reinart (upland site manager) will be at the Baker Heights Community Center, 1401 Poplar St., to answer questions and share information about the cleanup.

Stop by Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. to ask questions, pick up the latest fact sheet or other materials and find out the latest information about the cleanup.

Once construction starts in mid-July, you can also stop by to find out more about the cleanup schedule, traffic routes and our progress.

We’d also love to hear your ideas on how we can better share information with the community.

Need more information about the cleanup? We have several other resources to offer!


  • Ecology’s website: We recently updated our Everett Smelter website with the latest information to help you find more resources.



  • Written material: We have fact sheets, posters, kid’s activity sheets, and brochures available. These can be found online, or you can call or email us to ask for copies. Fact sheets will be mailed out a couple times a year.



  • Presentations: If you’d like Ecology staff to come and speak to your community or neighborhood group, let us know.



  • Local information line: Call (425) 530-5169. Our staff will return your calls within 24 hours.



  • Public meetings: We will hold public meetings each year to share information about our progress and what’s next on the schedule.





Planets In the Playground

By Nancy Uziemblo, Geologist, Nuclear Waste Program


Third graders at Southgate Elementary share their solar system facts.


Ecology's Nancy Uziemblo and Southgate third grade teacher Sangetta Goswami join the inner planetary bodies to wave to their distant counterparts, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
We talk about Hanford cleanup and actively promote care of the Earth… Why not extend it to the solar system? When asked to share a geology lesson, sometimes I get carried away and think big. So when Sangetta Goswami (wife of Dib Goswami, Hydrogeologist with the Nuclear Waste Program) requested my annual geology lesson for the 3rd graders at Southgate Elementary School, I said, "Sure!" This time we would study our solar system, how big it is, and how we fit in.

In the classroom, I showed recent pictures of the sun, planets and moons from the NASA website. The students were each assigned a planetary body and came ready to share a fact that they gathered about it. This research prepared them to go to the playground and act like the sun, planets, dwarf planet, planets’ rings and many moons in our solar system. If one student was Europa, she would be rotating around Jupiter. A few students twirled about Saturn as one of its many rings. Uranus would be poised tilted, and Mercury would be small and hot when he was facing the sun.

Outside we stretched a 100-foot rope marked with the relative locations of the sun, planets and Pluto and became the solar system! The students ran to their spots and acted large or small, hot or cold. The inner planets and their moons realized how crammed they were being so close to the sun. Pluto and its moons were a bit lonely at the end of the rope and waved to their nearest neighbor, Neptune. Uranus realized it was hard to lean sideways.

We learned how big our solar system is and that there are large planets, hot planets, tiny planets and far away planets. The students know that we are not alone in our solar system, and I think they will now extend that care to our planetary objects near and far.

For more information about Ecology in the classroom or to schedule a presentation, please contact Erika Holmes, 509-372-7880. Keep tabs on Hanford with our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page and email list.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fecal Matters: Swimming Advisory Posted for Larrabee State Park, Wildcat Cove

BEACH Program Update

Marine water sampling has identified high bacteria levels at Wildcat Cove in Larrabee State Park in Whatcom County. The beach will be posted with a swimming advisory and additional samples will be collected tomorrow.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in marine waters can come from both shore and inland sources. Inland sources can consist of stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems and even animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife. Shore sources can consist of swimmers, boats, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. We often observe high bacteria results following rain events. In general, the BEACH Program recommends avoiding contact with marine waters 48 hours following rainfall.

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

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Coordinator and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov or at 360-407-6159.



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ecology, Coast Guard assist grounded fishing vessel in the San Juans

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager

Responders from the state Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the U.S. Coast Guard are overseeing the removal of fuel from a fishing vessel that ran aground early today (Tuesday, June 7) on Patos Island in the San Juan Islands.

The Ruby Lily, a 50-foot commercial fishing vessel, ran aground on the south side of Patos Island at about 1:30 a.m. today. One person was on board at the time. The boat received some minor damage and is listing, but responders do not believe it is in danger of sinking.

The Ruby Lily is carrying about 4,500 gallons of diesel fuel. Less than a gallon of heavier oil is believed to have leaked into the water, but the vessel is completely surrounded by hard boom at this time. The plan is to remove fuel from Ruby Lily by pumping it into a vacuum truck brought to the scene on a barge, then float the vessel and check its stability.

The Coast Guard initially hired contractor Vessel Assist using the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The fund, managed by the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center, was opened to cover the costs of refloating, salvaging and any required cleanup due to the fishing vessel Ruby Lily.

The Coast Guard's National Pollution Funds Center was created to implement Title I of the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which addressed issues associated with preventing, responding to and paying for oil pollution. Title I of OPA established oil spill liability and compensation requirements, including the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to pay for expeditious oil removal and uncompensated damages.

The boat’s owner has taken on the cost of the operation and has hired Global Diving and Salvage Co., Vessel Assist and Islands' Oil Spill Association, a non-profit oil spill response organization that operates in the San Juans.

Coast Guard and Ecology responders will remain on site during the fuel removal and the floating of the Ruby Lily.

Check online for more information about Ecology’s Spills Program.

Around the Sound: Comments sought on cleanup work in Bellingham, Everett

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

We’re currently asking the Bellingham community to look over and comment on plans for some upcoming cleanup work at two major sites.

One is the Cornwall Avenue Landfill site, an old municipal waste repository literally on the shore of Bellingham Bay. In fact, part of the shore is the landfill. The Cornwall site is just one of a dozen cleanup sites on Bellingham Bay that Ecology is working with local partners to clean up.

Here’s a news release with some details about the proposed Cornwall work, which would happen in a few months if everything goes as planned. It includes information about a public meeting that Ecology and the Port of Bellingham will hold on Wednesday evening, June 8.

We’re also asking the Bellingham community to comment on a plan to do some significant cleanup work at the former Eldridge Municipal Landfill site. The City of Bellingham will lead that work, which also will be done in the next few months.

Ecology looks at Bellingham Bay as a great example of how public entities can work together to clean up and protect Puget Sound’s waters. Cleanup projects can take a long time and carry expensive price tags, but they also produce huge benefits for the environment, the Sound’s health and local communities.

Everett cleanup

Like at Bellingham Bay, we’re working on several cleanup sites at Everett’s Port Gardner Bay under the Puget Sound Initiative. We’re currently accepting comments on a cleanup report for the Bay Wood Products site on Port Gardner.

The Port of Everett prepared the report, which will help guide cleanup efforts at the site.

Securing Hanford’s Future in the Classroom

By Erika Holmes, Community Outreach & Environmental Education Specialist, Nuclear Waste Program

Students build their own watershedto see how surface runoff picks up everything in its path.


Students learn about cleanup methods for Hanford's 80 square miles of contaminated groundwater.


Students play Ecology's card game matching pictures of Hanford Site animals to their descriptions.


A few weeks ago, I received letters from 50 fifth graders at James McGee Elementary in Pasco. They’d been studying ecosystems, conservation and pollution, and they wanted answers about Hanford. Why is Hanford so contaminated? What is a Vit Plant? How can radiation be captured in glass?

So, on June 1st, I visited the classrooms of two teachers: Mrs. Palomarez and Mrs. Kopf. First, their students wowed me with what they’d learned about ecosystems and pollution. Too much fertilizer on lawns and crops can speed up algae growth in surface waters. Removing a species from an ecosystem impacts other life in that system. Only rain should go in the storm drain, and so on.

Then, I showed them a slideshow on the Columbia River watershed and Hanford history and cleanup. We finished our session playing Ecology’s card game matching descriptions of animals on the Hanford Site to their pictures, trying out Hanford groundwater cleanup methods on Ecology’s model, and playing Bechtel’s WTP 2020 educational video game about the Vit Plant (also known as the Waste Treatment Plant).

Continuing the conversation
One student commented that he couldn’t believe all he had to do was write a letter to get someone from Hanford to come to his class. Surprised by the power of his own words, he sincerely appreciated that someone heard his voice and took action. Some students asked if they could continue to write to me over the summer and have their parents drop off their letters on the way to work. Why not?

The Hanford community often feels like an echo chamber in which all the same voices are heard. Though a diverse chorus, we’re always hoping to get more people in on the conversation. The genuine interest these kids showed in Hanford and the health of our environment demonstrated to me that youth can engage, and intelligently at that.

Some DO stay engaged
As I was writing this, I checked Ecology’s Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page and discovered 5 new “likes,” two of which were University of Washington students whom I met through service-learning projects. Both promoted a public meeting to fellow students and one went on to write a glossary of terms related to Hanford’s underground tank waste (I’ll be posting it soon).

Some question the ongoing benefits of educational outreach and service learning, claiming it’s a waste of time and money. But Hanford cleanup needs funding for at least another 41 years, and we need informed people to continue working on and caring about it until then and beyond. Educating today’s youth prepares them to be tomorrow’s leaders (McGee fifth graders, that means you!).

For more pictures of my visit to McGee, see our Facebook page.



Fecal Matters: Mystery Bay State Park Swimming Advisory Lifted

BEACH Program Update

Additional samples collected at Mystery Bay State Park on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County show that bacteria concentrations have dropped to background levels. Jefferson County Public Health removed the advisory signs today.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Coordinator and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov


Monday, June 6, 2011

Stay clean and green this boating season

Photo of a marinaBy Curt Hart, Communications Manager

After a long cool spring, boaters are starting to head back out on Washington’s rivers, lakes and marine waters for another season. Now is the time for boaters to consider what they can do to stay safe and protect our waters.

Ecology receives about 3,800 spill reports a year. Many oil spills occur at marinas and from recreational boats. Even small spills matter. A single quart of motor oil can potentially contaminate up to 100,000 gallons of water.

From September 2010 through April 2011, Ecology logged more than 100 small spills at ports and marinas that were too thin to clean up from the water.

If mechanical problems occur far from shore, they can put a boat in jeopardy of sinking — threatening lives and potentially contaminating our waters. We don’t want someone’s perfect day on the water turning into an environmental disaster.

Boaters can protect their watercraft and the environment by taking the following precautions:
  • Tune up the boat motor, check for oil and fuel leaks, and fix them before launching the boat.


  • Carefully replace the engine’s old gear oil and coolant, taking care not to spill any in the water or on the ground. Safely recycle or dispose of used oil and filters, batteries, unused paint, solvents, antifreeze and other chemicals at the county hazardous waste collection site.


  • Put a clean absorbent pad in the bilge-pump area. Do not pump contaminated bilge water overboard. Use approved shore-side facilities.


  • Do not discharge treated or untreated sewage in the marina basin. Use shore-side sewage dump stations or mobile pumping services if available.


  • Do not overfill or top off fuel tanks. Allow for fuel expansion especially in warmer weather. Use oil absorbents or other devices to catch drips.

State and federal law requires anyone who spills oil, regardless of size, to immediately report it to Ecology at 800-OILS-911 and the U.S. Coast Guard at 800-424-8802. Acting quickly can help minimize environmental damage caused by oil and chemical products.

Anyone can report a spill or other environmental problem. See Ecology’s online resources for reporting problems that affect the environment: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/reportaproblem.html

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ecology, Coast Guard respond to Liberty Bay diesel sheen

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager

Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard responded today (Friday, June 3) to a leaking fishing vessel moored at the Poulsbo Marina on Liberty Bay.

Ecology was notified of the incident at about 8:30 a.m. today. Port of Poulsbo staff already had placed boom – a floating barrier to stop the spread of oil – and oil cleanup materials around the Eric J, a fishing vessel with a leaking fuel tank. The Poulsbo fire department assisted in deploying the boom.

By 7 p.m., at least 70 gallons of diesel fuel had been recovered from the water. It’s unclear how much fuel had leaked into Liberty Bay.

At this time, the vessel’s owner continues to pump fuel from the tank. Fuel is no longer leaking from the vessel into the water. Responders believe the Eric J has at least 2,000 gallons of fuel on board.

Coast Guard pollution investigators remain on the scene to monitor the cleanup and fuel recovery effort.

The owner reportedly has hired a tug company to tow the Eric J to Port Townsend next week.

The boom and cleanup materials came from an Ecology spill-response equipment trailer, one of several placed at ports and harbors around the state to speed responses to oil spills.

Washington’s natural resources are always put at risk whenever oil is spilled or hazardous materials are released to the environment. All oil spills matter, regardless of size. The damage starts as soon as oil hits the water. Oil products are poisonous to the environment and they add to the toxic load to our water bodies. Spills also are difficult and costly to clean up. That’s why Ecology works to prevent spills from occurring in the first place.

Ecology has established a webpage for this incident.

For more information, check out Ecology’s Spills Program.

Fecal Matters: Follow Up For Howarth Park in Snohomish County

BEACH Program Update

Additional samples collected at Howarth Park yesterday show that bacteria concentrations have dropped below levels of concern.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov


Fecal Matters: High Bacteria Levels at Seabeck Conference Center Lagoon in Kitsap County

BEACH Program Update
Updated 6/4/2011

Kitsap County Health District marine water sampling identified high bacteria levels at Seabeck Conference Center Saltwater Lagoon. The lagoon is going to be drawn down and refilled to flush out any contamination. Additional samples will be collected next week.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in marine waters can come from both shore and inland sources. Inland sources can consist of stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems and even animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife. Shore sources can consist of swimmers, boats, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. We often observe high bacteria results following rain events. In general, the BEACH Program recommends avoiding contact with marine waters 48 hours following rainfall.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fecal Matters: Swimming Advisory for Mystery Bay State Park

BEACH Program Update

Marine water sampling has identified high bacteria levels at Mystery Bay State Park. The beach will be posted with a swimming advisory and additional samples will be collected tomorrow.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in marine waters can come from both shore and inland sources. Inland sources can consist of stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems and even animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife. Shore sources can consist of swimmers, boats, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. We often observe high bacteria results following rain events. In general, the BEACH Program recommends avoiding contact with marine waters 48 hours following rainfall.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the BEACH Program Data Coordinator and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov








Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fecal Matters: High Bacteria Levels at Howarth Park in Snohomish County

BEACH Program Update

Marine water sampling has identified high bacteria levels at Howarth Park. The beaches will be resampled tomorrow morning and results will be available Friday.

Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in marine waters can come from both shore and inland sources. Inland sources can consist of stormwater runoff, sewer overflows, failing septic systems and even animal waste from livestock, pets, and wildlife. Shore sources can consist of swimmers, boats, marine mammals, birds, and other wildlife. We often observe high bacteria results following rain events. In general, the BEACH Program recommends avoiding contact with marine waters 48 hours following rainfall.

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

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

Jessica Bennett is the Acting BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at jessica.bennett@ecy.wa.gov

How Do YOU Protect Washington Waters?

By Brook Beeler, Watershed Education Coordinator

I think by now many people know that stormwater and polluted run-off is the number one pollution problem for Washington’s waters. Pollution from stormwater not only affects our rivers, lakes and streams but can also cause significant problems with drinking water and human health.

Although more than 60 percent of water pollution comes from things like cars leaking oil, fertilizers and pesticides from farms and gardens, failing septic tanks, pet waste, and fuel spills from recreational boaters, we want you to know there is good news. YOU can help make a difference. Each of us can do small things to help clean up our waters.



There are many actions you can take to keep our waters clean, at home, at play, even at work. You may already do some of these things.

You may have already taken our Protect Our Waters Pledge. You can also have some fun testing your knowledge with our stormwater quiz or discovering your Pollution Prevention Personality Profile.

Please share your clean water stories with us!

Click on the Post a Comment link below and tell us: “How do you Protect Washington Waters?”