Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Around the Sound: Anacortes cleanup continues

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

As you can see, work is progressing at the Custom Plywood cleanup site on the Anacortes waterfront.

Take a look at what’s happening now at the site, compared with the photos I took during a visit to Anacortes in March 2010. Quite a contrast.

Cleanup workers have dug out and removed contaminated soil and replaced it with clean material.

Check out this previous post for information about the project.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Air Time: Oregon wildfires spur smoke warning

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Smoke from Oregon wildfires prompted the National Weather Service to issue a hazardous weather outlook for today (Tuesday, Aug. 30) in parts of central and eastern Washington.

Smoke is blowing into the Yakima Valley, the Columbia Basin and other areas. When smoke is in the air, you can do a number of things to protect your health. You can find that information in this earlier Air Time blog post.

You also can take steps to limit other kinds of air pollution while increased amounts of smoke are present. Some ideas:
  • Drive less. Combine errands or use public transportation.

  • 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.

You can track current conditions in the Columbia River Gorge by checking this U.S. Forest Service web camera near Wishram in Klickitat County.

You can follow firefighting efforts here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Air Time: In case you missed it ...

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Last week’s announcement that Ecology is revamping the state’s vehicle emissions testing program drew a lot of attention and even some praise.

Vehicles in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties undergo emission tests to reduce air pollution in the state’s most populated areas. You can check online to see if emissions testing areas include your zip code.

The new rule, which takes effect in July 2012, includes changes required by the Legislature. All 2009 and newer model year vehicles will not require testing and additional businesses may be authorized to conduct tests. The rule also eliminates some testing that is becoming less relevant.

Newer vehicles are exempted because they already are producing less pollution. Washington has adopted "clean car" standards that require better emission controls on vehicles sold and registered in Washington.

Currently, vehicle emissions testing is scheduled to end in 2020.

In case you missed it, here are a couple examples of the media coverage – an article in the Seattle Times and a report from KIRO-TV in Seattle.

The changes also drew positive editorials from the Seattle Times and The Columbian in Vancouver.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Georgetown excavation prepares for cleanup in Duwamish Waterway

by Larry Altose, communication manager, Northwest Regional Office

Workers use water to control dust as an excavating machine lifts soil into a dump truck. When hauled away for disposal, the soil will be covered.
Workers use water to control dust as an excavating machine lifts soil into a dump truck. When hauled away for disposal, the soil will be covered.

On leaving the work area, the truck receives a spray cleaning to prevent the trackout of dust or mud onto neighborhood streets.
On leaving the work area, the truck receives a spray cleaning to prevent the trackout of dust or mud onto neighborhood streets.
The Boeing Co. and the city of Seattle have begun work to remove contaminated soil and groundwater from the north end of Boeing Field and the adjacent Georgetown Steam Plant property under an environmental cleanup agreement with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Read details here.

Cleanup Projects

The excavation is one of several projects that follows a lengthy investigation aimed primarily at PCBs (polychlorinated bihenyls) found in storm drains that empty into Slip 4, a Duwamish Waterway inlet near Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will oversee a cleanup of contaminated sediment on the bottom of Slip 4 this fall.

The projects have begun to reduce the concentrations of PCBs found in the storm drains that serve a 137-acre area that drains to Slip 4. Cleanup work in the North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant area will help reduce potential re-contamination of the inlet.

For more information

About Slip 4, the North Boeing Field/Georgetown Steam Plant area and the overall Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup:

Getting to know Citizens for a Healthy Bay, partners in protecting Commencement Bay

By Jocelyn Jones

Tuesday, I was lucky enough to join others from the Department of Ecology on a tour around Tacoma waterways. I saw firsthand the incredible work that has been done to restore the waters—and I met some of the folks instrumental to this success.

Marv Coleman from Ecology’s southwest regional office and Jeff Barney, from Citizens for a Healthy Bay (CHB), took time out of their busy schedules to show us around. All along the way, they pointed out the successes they have had in cleaning up the water—and the work still left to be done.

The pride at the successes and the determination to achieve even more left me feeling pretty inspired and certainly less pessimistic than when I started the day. With talented and knowledgeable people like this working to keep Washington waters clean and healthy, I know we can all do our part.

Ecology and CHB are partners in preventing pollution and correcting problems in Commencement Bay. The photo is of a vessel being cut up on the water, which is a violation of 90.48 water quality regulations. This is just the kind of violation that Jeff would spot during his Baywatch tours and let Ecology know about, so Ecology may follow up with potential regulatory actions.

Founded in 1990, Citizens for a Healthy Bay is also a partner in public outreach, functioning as one of Ecology’s information repositories when we issue documents that are subject to public notice and comment periods. They help us spread the word when we need input from citizens around the Sound.

They also organize great events that help get and keep citizens engaged in a clean and healthy Puget Sound.

In fact, this weekend is the 19th Annual Tacoma Maritime Fest. You should come check it out! CHB and Ecology will each have booths there!

Find out more about Citizens for a Healthy Bay at the Maritime Fest this weekend. Their booth will be located near the information booth, or “like” them on Facebook. If you stop by the Festival, be sure to thank Jeff for his work to protect Washington waters!

Our Changing Climate: Walking our talk

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

In late 2009, Gov. Chris Gregoire challenged Ecology to take the lead in finding ways that state agencies, businesses and individuals could reduce their climate-changing emissions.

In response, Ecology launched a “Carbon Smart” initiative. We define being “Carbon Smart” as making choices that:
  • Reduce climate-changing emissions.

  • Save money.

  • Cut back on energy use.

  • Protect the environment.

  • Improve the ways we operate our public agencies, businesses and homes.

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant put it this way: “To protect our quality of life, we have to find new approaches that let us live our lives and do our work while emitting less carbon. It makes sense for the state’s environmental agency to help find those solutions — especially those that also save money — and share what we learn with others.”

Our “Carbon Smart” web page provides a rundown on some of the things Ecology is doing and plans to do to reduce emissions. We also detail what others are doing and what you can do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Around the Sound: Contaminated soil dug out at Everett site

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Workers dug out petroleum-contaminated soil at a cleanup site in Everett on Monday (Aug. 22) as part of a quick action to protect people and the environment from the material.

Andy Kallus of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program took the photo. Andy is the project manager for our Port Gardner Bay cleanup sites, which are included in our Puget Sound Initiative work.

The contaminated soil was removed from the North Marina Ameron/Hulbert site, which was the previous home of the Collins Building. The Port of Everett owns the site.

Two areas of petroleum contamination were identified when the Collins Building was demolished in 2010, which exposed the contamination. That made it accessible to the public.

The Port of Everett had about 80 cubic yards of contaminated soil removed from the site. Andy said doing so will help reduce the threat of contaminants spread via surface water runoff or leaching into shallow groundwater.

Andy and other Ecology staff are working with the port on a more permanent, larger-scale cleanup of the site. That work is expected to be done in 2014.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bye, bye, borax

By Michael Bergman, Toxic Free Tips coordinator, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction

Ecology is pulling a popular video from its YouTube site over concerns about borax. The Greener Cleaner video shows how you can make a “do-it-yourself,” multi-purpose cleaner.

That infomercial-style video has been part of Ecology’s effort to help get the word out about alternatives to harsher household cleaners.

However, something happened recently to make Ecology revisit that video. It turns out that the alternative cleaner recipe it features isn’t as safe as we thought it was.

That’s because the recipe contains borax, a common product you can find in the laundry aisle. However, boric acid – which makes up more than 90 of borax – was recently added to the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) list of Chemicals of Very High Concern. Chemicals are added to that list when they are linked to human health dangers such as cancer or reproductive problems.

That listing makes borax a problem in two ways. First, we want to provide you with information on the safest alternatives available. And second, Ecology relied – in part – on ECHA’s standards in putting together its own list of Chemicals of High Concern for Children as part of Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act.

At Ecology we try not to think in terms of ‘safe’ alternatives to every chemical product. Instead, we aim for the safest alternative we know about at the time and then pass that information on to you. And if we find something safer later on, we’ll tell you about as soon as we know.

If you are interested in a good alternative cleaner you can mix up at home without borax, try the following:
  • 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap – not detergent

  • 3/4 cup warm water
Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle, put the cap on and shake it up. This mixture both cleans and disinfects.

You can get a free, complete set of our safer-cleaner recipes. Just visit our website at Or phone our toll-free Toxic Free Tips line and speak to our staff or leave a message with your mailing address. The number is 1-866-939-9991.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Work Underway at B&L Woodwaste Cleanup Site

Diana Smith, Public Involvement Coordinator

Now that dry summer weather is here, more cleanup work is underway at the old B&L Woodwaste landfill in Pierce County near Fife and Milton.

Woodwaste contaminated with arsenic-tainted slag from the Tacoma ASARCO smelter was dumped in the landfill in the 1970s and 1980s. Arsenic has been found in soil, groundwater and ditches around the landfill and neighboring wetland. Ecology is overseeing cleanup by the B&L Custodial Trust (trust).

Over the next several weeks, the trust’s contractors will be building a system to remove contaminated groundwater from the landfill and wetland. Work in the wetlands across from the landfill will start in September. Area residents and people who use Interurban Trail between Fife Way and I-5 will see workers drilling wells, digging trenches and installing pipes and wires in the trenches.

As part of this work, the trust will need to close Interurban Trail for a day in the next few weeks. We’ll post more information when we have the closure date.

The wells and pipes will carry the pumped groundwater to a new treatment system that will remove contamination from the water. In July, the trust started preparing the construction site for the treatment system. The building and treatment system will be constructed this fall.

For more information about this site, visit the B&L Woodwaste webpage and read our fact sheet.

Air Time: Wildfire smoke sparks air quality alert

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Health officials have issued an air quality alert because of smoke from the Tumwater Canyon fire in north-central Washington.

Air quality in the area is now in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" category under the Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA), according to the Chelan-Douglas Health District.

When air quality reaches "unhealthy for sensitive groups" status, outdoor activities should be limited for people with lung and heart disease, diabetes, or a respiratory infection; those who have had a stroke; infants and children; and adults older than 65.

You can read more about WAQA categories here.

The Tumwater Canyon fire, now encompassing about 200 acres, is burning in steep, rugged terrain about six miles north of Leavenworth in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

To track information on the fire, check here for fire updates. You also can see images from a web camera in Leavenworth via the Wenatchee World's website.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Finding a solution to wine waste woes

By Scott Mallery, Water Quality Program, Eastern Region

Have you ever thought about where your wine comes from? What about the type of wastewater that comes from making wine? Or about what wine wastewater discharges can do to the land or a wastewater treatment plant? The Department of Ecology (Ecology), the Port of Mattawa, the Wahluke Winery, and J & S Crushing have not only thought about it but they’ve come up with a solution!

The problem

The wastewater discharge from a winery comes to the treatment plant in large amounts all at once. It contains large amounts of organic materials (sometimes called high “biochemical oxygen demand” or BOD) that overwhelms the treatment plant’s ability to treat the normal daily influx of residential wastewater. The wastewater also has low pH (or high acidity).

Mattawa’s special treatment plant for wine waste.
When a wastewater treatment plant receives wastewater with high BOD and low pH it can cause a treatment upset, which means the wastewater may not be treated to the proper level before it is discharged to the environment.

Applying the wastewater to land is an option, but there is a potential for the high BOD to cause metals in the soils, as well as other toxins attached to the soil particles, to leach out to the groundwater supply. Moreover, land application is only an option during the summer growing season when the soil conditions are right and there is an actively growing crop.

The project

The Wahluke Winery began its Mattawa operations in 2005, discharging wastewater to the city of Mattawa wastewater treatment plant. For the next two years, the city of Mattawa’s treatment plant experienced many treatment upsets, causing violations of the plant’s discharge permit. Eventually, the city of Mattawa and Ecology told Wahluke Winery it could no longer send its wastewater to the city’s treatment plant.

What was the solution? Click here to read the whole story.

Telling our success stories

Water quality success stories provide a wealth of information associated with novel project designs, funding ideas, and useful resource suggestions. Some are clear successes; others supply valuable lessons to help us grow in our understanding of water quality protection and restoration. Stories illustrate successes gained from cooperation among Washington’s citizens and organizations. Read all of our water quality success stories, and check out our catalog of stories.

Ready, set… RODEO!

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

We’re prepped and psyched to hit the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo with some new activities for passersby. Come one, come all: kids; Hanford workers, neophytes, and haters alike; visitors from out of town. We want to talk to everyone.

This year, our booth really is “more than an 8-second ride”! Explore the bottom of the Columbia River with our critters’ aquarium, test your Hanford knowledge by playing games, and connect with our social media tools and public mailing lists on the spot on our new touch-screen kiosk.

Our Hanford groundwater model is sitting this one out, awaiting its next showing. Teachers, school is starting soon, and we’re looking to book classroom visits. Don’t let the model get dusty! Come see us and schedule your class.

If you can’t make it, find us online anytime with Ecology’s Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page, our ECOconnect blog, and website.

We hope to see you at the fair or in cyberspace!

Court decision is big gain for groundwater protection

Dan Partridge, communications manager, Water Resources Program

Ecology's Maia Bellon
The state Supreme Court has reaffirmed local governments’ obligations to ensure legal groundwater availability when making land use decisions.

In Kittitas County vs. EWGHMB, the court on July 28, 2011, upheld a decision of the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board that Kittitas County violated the Growth Management Act. The county was not preventing subdivision applicants from using more than one permit-exempt groundwater well per development. Washington allows the drilling of wells without a water right permit provided that groundwater withdrawals are limited to 5,000 gallons per day.

In considering Kittitas County’s appeal of the hearings board decision issued in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the county failed to protect groundwater resources by approving side-by-side subdivision proposals allowing developers to evade legal limits on the use of permit-exempt wells.

Protection of existing water rights

“This could come at a great cost to the existing water rights of nearby property owners, even those in adjoining counties, if subdivisions and developments overuse the well permit exemption contrary to law,” the court said in a 6-3 decision.

Kittitas County’s subdivision approvals in the upper county led Ecology to impose a moratorium on new, unmitigated domestic wells in 2009 based on concern the county was allowing wells without regard to the legal availability of water.

Water Resources Program Manager Maia Bellon said counties’ obligations in determining the “legal availability” of water in addition to the “physical availability” of water when making land use decisions is nothing new.

Land-use decisions, water availability linked

“The decision recognizes the critical importance of marrying land-use decision-making with water supply and its availability. Those are and should be inextricably linked,” Maia said in news stories following the ruling.

Program manager just since July 1, Maia is a former assistant state attorney general who has intimate knowledge of Kittitas County vs. EWGMHB. She and AAG Alan Reichman authored the amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that Ecology submitted in the case.

Ruling recognizes water as finite resource

The ruling also recognizes that water is finite resource that must be carefully considered during land use planning and permitting and after the court decision Maia spoke to reporters of Ecology’s ongoing commitment to assisting counties in making their determinations of “physically available” and “legally available” water.

A link to the Supreme Court decision is available on Ecology’s Web page for the Water Resources Advisory Committee.

Air Time: Protect your health from wildfire smoke

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Continued dry weather — something you may not have expected this year, based on prior months — means wildfires are popping up throughout the state.

Wildfires produce plenty of smoke, which can harm your health. The biggest threat comes from the fine particles in smoke. These tiny particles can get into your eyes and lungs, where they can cause health problems such as burning eyes, runny nose, and illness such as bronchitis. Fine particles also can aggravate heart and lung diseases, and even lead to death.

Here are some steps you can take to protect your health from wildfire smoke:
  • When there are wildfires in an area or region, the severity of the smoke impacts depends on weather patterns. If the air isn’t moving, the concentration of fine particles increases in the air.
    Smoke from a fire can travel rapidly, affecting air quality hundreds of miles downwind.

  • Smoke from wildfires can impact the air you breathe and harm your health, especially if you have existing health conditions.
    The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit the time that they spend outdoors when smoke is in the air.

  • Children also are more susceptible to smoke because:Their respiratory systems are still developing.They breathe more air (and air pollution) per pound of body weight than adults.They’re more likely to be active outdoors.

  • When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may be affected. To protect yourself, it’s important to limit your exposure to smoke — especially if you are susceptible.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from wildfire smoke:
  • Pay attention to air quality reports. The Washington Air Quality Advisory (WAQA) is the tool that that Washington State Department of Ecology uses to inform people about the health effects of air pollution. WAQA includes information about ground-level ozone, fine particles and carbon monoxide. WAQA is very similar to the EPA’s 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 there are fewer particles in the air.

  • Use common sense. WAQA and AQI may not have immediate information on conditions in your specific area. If it looks and smells smoky outside, it’s probably not a good time to go for a jog, mow the lawn or allow children to play outdoors.

  • If you have asthma or other lung disease, follow your doctor’s directions on taking medicines and following your asthma management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

  • If you have heart or lung disease, if you are an older adult, or if you have children, talk with your doctor about whether and when you should leave the area. When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not see them.

  • Some room air cleaners can help reduce particulate levels indoors, as long as they are the right type and size for your home. You can find more information about home air cleaners here.

  • Don’t think that paper “comfort” or “dust masks” are the answer. The kinds of masks that you commonly can buy at the hardware store are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. But they generally will not protect your lungs from the fine particles in smoke.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Turbid runoff and the railroad — Cooperative solutions

By Ted Hamlin, Ecology Spokane Regional Office

This dirt road was sending muddy runoff into the Spokane RiverThis dirt road was sending muddy runoff into the Spokane River.
Finding and fixing direct discharges of stormwater into the Spokane River are constant and perplexing problems. There are dirt streets, alleys, parking lots, and access roads around the cities of Spokane and the Spokane Valley that contribute muddy water during each rain event or snow melt. When this happens, it can cause a stormwater water quality violation.

Urban Waters Initiative is working

Ecology’s Urban Waters Initiative is working to eliminate pollution that is getting into the Spokane River. One of the techniques we use is to conduct neighborhood sweeps, looking for businesses or land uses that may be potential sources. Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad’s dirt access road, leading from Madelia Street up a hill to its silos, turned out to be one source of muddy runoff. When it rained or snow melted at the site, water would run down the hill, picking up dirt and delivering it to a storm drain.

So at 310 N. Madelia Street, we had to figure out who was responsible for the turbid runoff.

BNSF stepped up as a responsible party and due to the work of the Urban Waters Initiative and collaboration with BSNF Railroad and the city of Spokane, the site now has a well thought-out stormwater management system that should eliminate runoff of turbid water.

Click here to read the full story.

Telling our success stories

Water quality success stories provide a wealth of information associated with novel project designs, funding ideas, and useful resource suggestions. Some are clear successes; others supply valuable lessons to help us grow in our understanding of water quality protection and restoration. Stories illustrate successes gained from cooperation among Washington’s citizens and organizations.

Read all of our water quality success stories, and check out our catalog of stories.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Changing Climate: How about that weather?

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

ABC News led its evening newscast last night (Monday, Aug. 15) with a report about the extreme weather that we’re seeing around the world. Click here to watch the report.

Note the comments about how weather conditions are hurting farmers and the agricultural industry. Yesterday here in Washington, Gov. Gregoire asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to determine whether to designate the entire state of Washington a farm disaster area due to weather-related productions delays and crop losses.

The delays are the result of cold and wet weather conditions in every corner of the state throughout the spring and summer, according to a Governor’s Office news release.

“Everyone knows we’ve had lousy weather this spring and summer, but most of us don’t suffer serious economic consequences as a result,” Gov. Gregoire said. “Farmers across the state have watched their crops develop late or fail to thrive during this year’s cold and wet weather. ...”

So, yes, there’s a lot of weird weather out there. Everywhere, it seems.

The ABC report makes the direct tie to climate change as the cause. That reflects the general trend in the scientific community toward identifying specific extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

That view has changed over the past few years. Even though extreme weather was an expected impact of climate change, climate scientists were reluctant to say climate change caused a specific weather event at a specific point in time.

In terms of climate science here in Washington, Ecology generally follows the lead of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. Group members still are leery of making such direct, specific ties.

Ecology’s climate change portal also offers some information about extreme weather in Washington. Some of it is a little outdated, but the main points hold true.

Finally, this USA Today report focuses on how U.S. cities are trying to react to extreme weather events, no matter the cause.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Around the Sound: Port Gardner site on track for 2012 cleanup

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

We’re closing in on a milestone for a cleanup site on Everett’s Port Gardner Bay.

Ecology and the Port of Everett are preparing to sign a consent decree for the cleanup of the North Marina West End site. The legal agreement between Ecology and the port details what actions are needed to protect human health and the environment at the site. The decree requires the port to carry out the cleanup actions that will be identified in the site’s final cleanup action plan.

Right now, we expect cleanup work to start at the site in 2012.

Here’s a story from the Herald in Everett about the pending agreement. And here’s an Ecology news release on the public comment period about the agreement and other site documents.

The site is located between 11th and 14th streets, off West Marine View Drive southwest of the Legion Memorial Golf Course in western Everett. The site housed timber-product operations from about 1890 until about 1950. The North Marina area was filled to its current configuration between about 1947 and 1955.

Since then, the North Marina West End site has been used for commercial, marine and general industrial purposes. Uses included trucking and marine construction activities such as welding, pile driving, sandblasting, creosote log storage, and painting. The site also included storage tanks for diesel fuel, gasoline, waste and heating oils.

These uses contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment with a variety of chemicals, petroleum products and heavy metals.

The port already has performed some significant partial cleanup work. Between 2006 and 2008, the port dug up more 40,000 tons of contaminated soil and disposed of it off-site. Petroleum-contaminated groundwater also was cleaned up.

Port Gardner Bay is a high-priority cleanup area under the Puget Sound Initiative. Here’s a rundown on the Port Gardner sites.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stories about Getting to Clean Water: Baby white sturgeon released into Columbia River

By Marcie Mangold, Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office

This future fisherman helps release a baby white sturgeon.
On April 28, over 60 people formed a “human chain” to pass buckets containing baby sturgeon so they could release them into the Columbia River in Grant County. A truck transported the 10-month-old sturgeon from the hatchery to the ceremony site near Priest Rapids.

The fish release was part of a ceremony to celebrate the White Sturgeon Recovery Conservation Program effort. Rex Buck, Jr. and other Wanapum Tribal members blessed the fish at the event and spoke of their importance to Wanapum and Yakama Native American cultures. Other speakers at the event included Paul Ward and Donella Miller from the Yakama Nation, and Grant PUD’s Assistant Manager, Chuck Berrie and Senior Biologist, Mike Clement.

Each fish tagged

Each fish released contained a passive tag that biologists can use to identify the fish when they are caught. These tags allow the researchers to track their movements, growth, and survival within the river over the next 20+ years. About one percent of the total sturgeon released also contained a sonic tag that emits a signal that can tell the biologists specifically where they are located without the need to catch the fish. These tags will work for up to five years.

Dams are hard on sturgeon

Dams along the Columbia River Basin have reduced white sturgeon populations. White sturgeon in the middle and upper Columbia River now reside in human-controlled and impounded reservoirs between dams. While these populations are able to reproduce, the juvenile or larval fish have a poor survival rate in the natural river, which leads to population declines. Some researchers believe this is likely due to regulation of river flows; flooding of historical critical spawning and rearing habitats; and increased numbers of native and non-native predators due to habitat alteration, introduction of exotic species, and increased pollution.

Read this full story online.

Water quality success stories provide a wealth of information associated with novel project designs, funding ideas, and useful resource suggestions. Some are clear successes; others supply valuable lessons to help us grow in our understanding of water quality protection and restoration. Stories illustrate successes gained from cooperation among Washington’s citizens and organizations.

Read all of Ecology's water quality success stories, and check out our complete catalog of stories to date.

Our Changing Climate: Mapping Climate Change

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

A friend sent a link to an interesting website, Climate Hot Map, offered by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It includes a clickable map that shows how climate change is impacting and could impact places all over the world, including in Washington. (The photo, which is not on the website, shows the receding South Cascade Glacier in Washington's Cascade Mountains.)

The site also provides a lot of information on climate impacts on people and different aspects of the environment.

My friend wrote: “Especially under the People icon, you can see issues related to human health, food, water use and economic costs (just the stuff most people care about, quite a lot in the USA). Also other icons you can check are water (too much, too little), oceans (sea level, acidity, ice), ecosystems and temperatures (air, ocean, water, ground).”

Check it out and see what you find.

In Washington, one of the impacts that poses concerns is rising sea levels and tides. Here’s a recent KPLU report that explores the subject.

We’ve posted earlier items on ECOconnect on high tides in Washington, also known as “king tides.” Check out the photos submitted to Ecology from Washingtonians around the state.

Fecal Matters: Hartstene Point Private Beach in Mason County is Open for Swimming

BEACH Program Update

The Hartstene Pointe private swimming beach in Mason County is now open for swimming. Samples collected by the homeowners association indicate low bacteria concentrations. Beach closure signs previously posted due to a sewage spill were removed today.

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

Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Air Time: More vehicle standards will improve air you breathe

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

The Obama administration has announced a follow-up to its recent mandate to increase fuel efficiency in cars and light-duty trucks.

This week, the White House revealed the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. They were developed in cooperation with vehicle makers and operators.

Under this new program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will cut oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and reduce climate-changing greenhouse gases by about 270 million metric tons.

The standards are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators.

This is another win for air quality, too – the new standards will mean less air pollution from fine particles in vehicle exhaust. Fine particles cause serious health problems like asthma, heart attacks and lung diseases, and can even cause death. In turn, that drives up health-care costs.

The White House says the cost savings for American businesses are on top of the $1.7 trillion that American families will save at the pump from the fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks.

By the 2018 model year, the program is expected to achieve significant savings in fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions:
  • Certain combination tractors (semi-trucks) must achieve reductions of up to about 20 percent, saving up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

  • For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline-powered and diesel trucks. These vehicles must achieve reductions of up to about 15 percent, saving 1 gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

  • Vehicles such as delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks must achieve reductions of about 10 percent, saving an average of 1 gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

Other benefits: The cost of transporting goods should drop, and the new standards are expected to spur growth in the clean energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers.

You can find more information on EPA’s website and on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fecal Matters: Twanoh State Park is Open for Swimming

BEACH Program Update

Twanoh State Park in Mason County is open for swimming. Additional samples collected show bacteria concentrations have dropped to background levels. Beach closure signs previously posted on August 5, 2011 were removed today.

Visit the BEACH web site to find the latest results for these and other saltwater beaches:

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

Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and can be reached at

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ecology Washington Conservation Corps looking for new recruits

By Bridget Mason, WCC Coordinator

WCC Members work at the Reiter Salmon Hatchery in Gold Bar, Wash.

If you’re between 18 and 25 years old, like to work outdoors, and want to help Washington’s environment and our communities, then the Washington Department of Ecology has an opportunity for you!

Our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is looking for 245 young adults to fill AmeriCorps crew and individual placement positions in 15 counties across the state. These are great opportunities to enter the environmental field - a college degree and previous work history are not required.

Year commitment, great work experience and money for college
Our WCC AmeriCorps members sign on for a year of service, beginning in October 2011 and ending the following September.

Those who finish a full 12 months of service get:

• Excellent work experience and job skills.
• State minimum wage – currently $8.67 an hour.
• A $5,550 AmeriCorps education award, which can be used for student loans or future tuition expenses.
• Forbearance on qualified student loans while in the WCC.
• Top-notch training including wildland firefighting, wilderness first aid, how to characterize wetlands, oil and hazardous material response, and more!

You can learn more about WCC application requirements, interview schedule and apply for a position online.

More about the Washington Conservation Corps
The WCC started out in 1983 with just three restoration crews. Now we’ve grown to 40 crews and 20 individual placements across the state. Our continued growth shows how much the WCC is valued here in Washington as well as across the country.

In 1994, the WCC received our first federal AmeriCorps grant. This allowed the program to expand our reach to communities throughout Washington and increase the benefits provided to our members. These benefits include an expanded training program, education loan forbearance, and the AmeriCorps Education Award.

Environmental work varies by location
Although projects can vary by location, typical WCC crew work includes:

WCC Member, Janna Sargent, uses a chainsaw to clear downed trees for tornado victims in Yazoo City Mississippi (2010)
• Restoring salmon and related stream-side habitat.
• Installing rain gardens.
• Building trails.
• Planting trees and shrubs.
• Biological monitoring projects.

The WCC crew in Spokane, for instance, will dedicate a large amount of their time this coming year to building cattle-exclusionary fencing. Our crew in the Olympic National Park will focus on trail construction and improvements.

Disaster relief opportunities
When WCC members are not working directly with local organizations, they are called upon for disaster response. In 2011, WCC crews assisted with emergency response efforts in Washington, including flood response in Ellensburg and shelter operations after the White Swan fire near Yakima. Crews also worked to help communities in Alabama and Missouri that suffered extensive tornado damage earlier this spring.

Something new for 2011-12: WCC ‘Puget Sound Corps’
The 2011 Washington Legislature created the WCC “Puget Sound Corps” in partnership with Ecology and the state Department of Natural Resources. The new legislation means new opportunities for WCC crews, including opportunities for veterans, and the possibility of adding more positions before the 2011-2012 service year starts. Specifically, the WCC Puget Sound Corps will increase our presence in communities throughout Puget Sound and support efforts by the Puget Sound Partnership to restore, protect, and preserve the Sound by 2020.

Around the Sound: Cleanup changing Anacortes waterfront

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Cleanup work continues to reshape the old Custom Plywood site on the shore of Fidalgo Bay in Anacortes.

After four weeks of work, you can see the dramatic transformation going on at the place where the old mill burned down in 1992. The mill’s remains littered the surface with debris. Petroleum, heavy metals, old logs and wood waste, and other materials contaminated soil and groundwater.

Right now, workers are cleaning up about 6 upland acres at the site off 35th Street and V Avenue. They’re removing pilings and other structures so they can dig up about 33,600 tons of contaminated soil. All of that material will be taken away, and the site will be backfilled with about 39,000 tons of clean soil.

In-water work will start in the summer of 2012.

Here’s some background on the Custom Plywood site.

Ecology is overseeing the project. This Ecology news release offers some details on the work and the site.

Not only will the project reduce pollution and restore Puget Sound habitat, it will help give the local economy a boost.

In the long term, current site owner GBH Investments LLC plans to use the property – a major piece of industrial land on the Anacortes waterfront – for building and repairing boats.

And in the short term, cleanup contractor Strider Construction of Bellingham and its subcontractors expect to employ a total of about 40 workers on the project. Workers typically spend money on food, fuel, lodging, and other goods and services in the community where they’re employed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Ecology video highlights scientists who monitor Washington's marine waters

By Sandra Hughes, Office of Communication and Education

Play video now on YouTube

A dream assignment

I care about Puget Sound and also love small aircraft. So when I was invited to spend a day with Mya Keyzers of Ecology’s Marine Monitoring Program — and shoot video of her taking water samples from a seaplane — I jumped at the chance.

To get as many samples as possible on a single day, and to save time and money, Mya and her Ecology colleagues hire the use of a Kenmore seaplane.

Mya is part of a team that has been collecting data on the health of Puget Sound and Washington’s coastal estuaries since the 1970s.

This large body of data, taken over time, helps scientists understand if what they are seeing is normal or represents an important change that should be communicated to environmental managers and the public.

Their work encompasses a huge area. It takes three flight days for the program to cover all of Puget Sound (north, central and south.) A fourth flight path covers two coastal estuaries, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay.

Mya works as a flight technician. One of her tasks is taking samples and electronic sensor measurements at different depths throughout the water column.

How she does that is pretty interesting. As soon as the plane lands, Mya opens a hatch and lowers her oceanographic equipment right through the belly of the plane into the water!

The video gives you a flavor of Mya’s work — and why she has such a personal connection to it.

Eyes Over Puget Sound — a peek into the scientists’ notebooks

The Marine Monitoring team also takes aerial photographs and makes detailed notes about the surface and near surface conditions they observe on the water.

They can see the extent of an algae bloom or where brown freshwater runoff collides with bluer saltwater. They might see an oil sheen in the water, or a vessel in distress, or large amounts of floating debris. On a more positive note, they sometimes see whales and creatures such as jelly fish far from shore.

Now, you can view these photographs and notes online by subscribing to Ecology’s Eyes Over Puget Sound list serve. You can also view a sample Eyes Over Puget Sound page.

The site also shows data collected from the Victoria Clipper (a high-speed passenger-only ferry service between Seattle and Victoria), satellite images, and mooring data in different regions of the Salish Sea. You’ll receive e-mail notifications when new flight images and data are added. You can also unsubscribe at any time, using the same link.

The direct video link is:

Improvements to the Marine Monitoring Program's website are underway, so please stay tuned.

Air Time: New car standards drive fuel savings, jobs, cleaner air

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

As this Forbes columnist points out, some major news for Americans and the U.S. economy may have gone without much notice last week because of all the debt drama.

President Obama announced new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light-duty trucks. These standards follow up on earlier increases in fuel efficiency that are required starting with 2011 models.

Taken together, by 2025 these new standards are estimated to:
  • Increase the fleet-wide average efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon.

  • Save Americans $1.7 trillion at the pump over the life of the program. (Ecology’s Air Quality Program estimates that Washingtonians will see total savings of $34 billion by 2025.)

  • Reduce oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

  • Cut emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide by 6 billion metric tons.

The Forbes columnist cites a national study — “More Jobs Per Gallon” – that predicts the new standards will spur creation of nearly 500,000 new jobs, including about 43,000 in the auto-manufacturing industry.

It’s a remarkable achievement. Just a few years ago, automakers were fighting tougher standards in court. Now, they have joined with President Obama, environmentalists, workers, and a variety of others in backing these new standards.

And we all get cleaner air to breathe, too. As this Los Angeles Times editorial notes, it's a winning deal.

Fecal Matters: Beach Closure at Hartstene Pointe in Mason County

BEACH Program Update

The Mason County Health Department and the Hartstene Pointe Homeowners Association closed the private community beach of Hartstene Pointe today. The County received notification of a sewage spill near the swimming beach.

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.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv. Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6543 or for questions.

Fecal Matters: Twanoh State Park Closed to Swimming

BEACH Program Update

The Mason County Health Department closed Twanoh State Park to swimming today. Routine monitoring of the marine water showed elevated bacteria levels and additional samples confirmed the pollution is persisting.

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 beach closures, swimming advisories and the latest results for these and other saltwater beaches:

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

Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6543 or for questions.

Our Changing Climate: A new blog series

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Welcome to the first installment of “Our Changing Climate,” an ongoing series of posts that will focus on climate change in Washington and elsewhere.

I’ll start by pointing you to Ecology’s climate change web portal — you will find a wide range of information here on Ecology and what others in Washington have done and are doing about climate change.

And here’s a link to a good source on climate change issues from all over — the Dot Earth blog by Andrew Revkin of the New York Times.

Now let’s get to some recent news articles...

Ocean acidification

Washington’s lucrative commercial fish and shellfish industry is facing increasing threats from the continuing shift in the acidity of the world’s oceans. This Sightline Daily report looks at the issue. And here is an Ecology fact sheet on the topic in question-and-answer format.

Electric highways

It appears the electric car is here to stay, as demand increases and automakers realize such vehicles can help meet mandates for fuel efficiency and emissions limits. Electric cars need somewhere to charge up while they are on the road, so government agencies and private organizations and companies (like Costco and Best Buy) are stepping up efforts to provide the supply.

Here’s a news release from July about plans for a number of charging stations along Interstate 5 and U.S. 2 in Washington.

Coal trains

The idea of shipping coal from Washington ports to China has stirred a lot of passion. Supporters point to added jobs and economic benefits in the state. Opponents point to a variety of concerns, including increased rail traffic through their communities as the coal is transported via trains.

Another criticism — burning more coal overseas increases the amount of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and negates the progress Washington and other states have made in actually reducing such gases.

The Seattle Times and columnist Joel Connelly offer their takes on the issue. And here's an Associated Press story that notes Hoquiam could be home to another coal-exporting facility, in addition to proposed terminals at Longview and Whatcom County's Cherry Point.

Gassy cows

Yes, you read that correctly. This story out of Idaho explains.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Around the Sound: Soil Dioxin Study public events August 3rd

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator

Ecology is hosting two public events in Port Angeles this Wednesday, August 3rd! They will both be held at the Port Angeles Senior & Community Center at 328 E. 7th St.

3:00 - 5:00 pm Technical Workshop in the Craft Room (upstairs)
The technical workshop is a chance for the public to hear the details of the study analysis. Our consultant, Greg Glass, will give a presentation. Questions and discussion are encouraged.

6:30 - 8:30 pm Open House in the Multi-purpose Room
Ecology's study manager, Connie Groven, will give a presentation, followed by a question and answer session. For those who wish to speak one-on-one with Ecology staff, we will be available before and after the presentation.

We released our Rayonier Mill Off-Property Soil Dioxin Study in mid-July — see our July 12 blog for more information.