Monday, October 31, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Public meeting November 2 in Tacoma

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

We're holding a public comment period October 20 - December 20, 2011. Join us to learn more about our cleanup plan for the Tacoma Smelter Plume!


Wednesday, November 2nd

Point Defiance Elementary School cafeteria
4330 N. Visscher St., Tacoma
(253) 571-6900

6:30 – 7:00 p.m. Open house session
7:00 – 8:00 p.m. Presentation, question and answer
8:00 – 8:30 p.m. Open house session

You can review the plan and submit your comments at the meeting, or send comments to Cynthia Walker at Cynthia.Walker@ecy.wa.gov. See our comment period web page for more information.

We will be having three more meetings!

  • Nov. 9 on Vashon Island

  • Nov. 16 in University Place

  • Dec. 6 in Des Moines.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Quincy Basin water rights bring tangible changes to area

by Jani Gilbert, communications manager, Eastern Regional Office

Ecology is working to make water available in the Quincy Basin Groundwater Management Subarea. This means growth in the tourism industry so people have new vacation options; farmers who were for years staring blankly at dry, unproductive land are now looking out at fresh, new crops; and entrepreneurs with dreams of new industry are making those dreams come true.

This unique water came from beneath the Columbia Basin Project where it had accumulated from years of irrigation. It's called "artificially stored groundwater." Over the last seven years, Ecology and the Bureau of Reclamation worked together to develop a Quincy Basin water permitting process. Since then, more than 100 permits have been issued.

"We've worked with the Bureau of Reclamation to bring water back into Eastern Washington—to get it back into play for businesses, farming and housing developments," said Katherine Ryf of the Eastern Regional Office's Water Resources Program.

Water adds value

Quincy farmer Stanley Kaufmann swept his arm through the air to indicate a large swath of land saying the new water has increased the value of his property and that it's been good for the economy too. "I spent about $200,000 here getting the land ready to farm again and I used a lot of labor," said Kaufmann. "I spent almost $50,000 in rocking this ground."

Kaufmann said he hired from five to ten people for two to three months to work the land. "And we still have more to do," he said.

The water increased the value of the land in another way too. "Before we could only run one animal unit (cow) per 100 acres and now I'm running at least one and a half and it could get up to three head." Kaufmann also pointed out that now he is able to add $1,200 per acre to the community's tax coffers, up from zero.

Marilyn and Mike Measburg, who own the MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir say new water is allowing them to expand their resort to attract more visitors.

"Rural Grant, Adams and Lincoln counties have suffered horribly during this recession; we always struggle," Marilyn said. She said tourism is the third largest industry in Grant County and anything that can be done to help tourism along will help increase the tax base.



Key to life

Mike Measburg explained that the first thing they plan to do is expand their property, which is a 30-acre ribbon of land along the south shore of Potholes. He said they plan to add larger sized service hookups for RVs and more tent sites and camping cabins.

"Water is the key to life in central Eastern Washington," he said. "Without water nothing is here except Mother Nature and everything that sticks ya, pricks ya, bites ya and gits ya."

For some, the extra water means industrial growth opportunities and the creation of hundreds of jobs. Take, for example, Bob Fancher and Pamp Maiers, two partners who have built a new reverse osmosis water purification plant for industrial development in the Moses Lake area.



Creating Jobs

"There was no such facility like that around here," said Bob. "The new plant helps industry conserve water by using it over and over. We're hoping we can recruit new industry and provide jobs for the area this way. There's a big need for purified water."

Bob and Pamp say the plant could lead to employing an unlimited number of people. They estimate it could result in 400-500 new jobs in the near future. "This is a large plant we've built here," Bob said.

The limit of water the Water Resources Program has to allocate for this program is 177,000 acre-feet. With nearly 169,000 acre-feet already allocated, that leaves about 8,000 acre-feet available for new water permits for more expansions, more innovations and more dreams.


Bob Fancher (right) and Pamp Maiers with their Central Terminal water purification plant in the background.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cleaning Up: New chapter for Buena as old building falls

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program
BEFORE:


AFTER:



Razing Roby's

Cleanup work in the Central Washington town of Buena got off to a fast — and noticeable — start last week.

Last week, Yakima County used money provided by Ecology to hire workers to tear down the old Roby’s Service Station in Buena, a small community in Yakima County.

The abandoned husk sat on property contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks, which were removed several years ago. Since then, groundwater at the site has been monitored for contamination.

“This is a huge step for us in terms of being able to get at the contamination. We knew the groundwater was contaminated — now we’ll finally be able to address it at the source,” Valerie Bound, who heads Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program at Yakima, said in this Ecology news release.

Eastern Washington Clean Sites Initiative

The Buena project is just one of several included in a new Ecology effort that we’re calling the Eastern Washington Clean Sites Initiative. (And, yes, the “CSI” tag has produced some bad puns around Ecology offices.)

The 2011 Legislature provided $6 million to Ecology in the 2011-13 budget to work with communities to clean up several sites in Central and Eastern Washington.

You can read more about the initiative in this earlier installment of “Cleaning Up.”


Air Time: Efforts focus on reducing air emissions

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Ecology is asking for comments about a revised proposal for reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from TransAlta’s coal-fired power plant near Centralia in Lewis County.

The TransAlta plant is the state’s largest stationary source of nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen oxide is a visibility-reducing pollutant, which contributes to regional haze in national parks and wilderness areas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has directed states to reduce regional haze in coming decades.

Speaking of TransAlta, the Canada-based multinational company has opened its new U.S. headquarters in Olympia. Here’s the company’s news release, as well as a statement from Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Here are a few other news items related to emission reductions:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Cleanup plan out for public comment

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Ecology is holding a comment period October 20 – December 20 on a cleanup plan for the Tacoma Smelter Plume. This plan includes soil cleanup for the most contaminated areas of the plume and for play areas. It also manages risk by educating people about how to protect themselves.


Why it matters

Over 1,000 square miles of King, Pierce, Thurston, and Kitsap counties may have arsenic and lead soil contamination. You could be affected! Arsenic and lead are toxic, especially to children.


What to comment on

Our reading guide explains more about what's in the plan and what to comment on. Ecology is offering different services, depending on where you live. You may also have specific questions if you are a parent, teacher, developer, land use planner, real estate agent, or thinking about buying or selling a home.


How to submit comments

Check the comment period webpage for where to send comments. We also list all the staff available to answer questions.


Public Meetings

All meetings run from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

  • Nov. 2, 2011 Point Defiance Elementary School cafeteria, 4330 N. Visscher St., Tacoma


  • Nov. 9, 2011 McMurray Middle School cafeteria, 9329 Cemetery Rd., Vashon Island


  • Nov. 16, 2011 Curtis High School cafeteria, 8425 40th St. W., University Place


  • Dec. 6, 2011 Des Moines Activity Center, 2045 South 216th St., Des Moines

Check this blog over the next two months for more discussion about the plan and how you can be involved!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Washington and Ecology at center of push for national chemical policy reform

By Ken Zarker, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program


Chemicals regulations are changing across the United States, as well as globally. The federal chemical policy – the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — is intended to keep the public safe from toxic chemicals. This law was passed more than 35 years ago and has never been updated. It needs an overhaul.

The past few months have been an exciting and hopeful time for national chemical policy reform. Specifically, I had the opportunity to take part in several efforts recently to support revamping TSCA. In late August, Ted Sturdevant, Ecology’s director, submitted comments on behalf of Washington and eight other states to U.S Senators Frank Lautenberg and James Inhofe regarding the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, the bill they have sponsored to replace TSCA.

As a follow-up, I had the opportunity to meet with staffers Ben Dunham with Sen. Lautenberg’s office and Dimitir Karakitsos with Sen. Inhofe’s office to discuss the state comments and prospects for Senate action later this year. Senate staff reported they were conducting a series of stakeholder meetings with industry and non-governmental organizations. They also said the senators would consider further action if warranted, including states' input on a possible bill markup.

On September 26, I attended the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) TSCA panel during the ECOS Cross-Media Committee meeting held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The panel featured Wendy Cleland Hamnet of EPA, our own Ted Sturdevant, Sarah Brozena of the American Chemistry Council, Julie Froelicher of Proctor & Gamble, and Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center in Michigan. The panel discussed opportunities for modernizing TSCA. ECOS discussed its work with bipartisan Senate leadership to ensure that state concerns are addressed in the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.Panel participation demonstrated that there’s broad support for modernizing TSCA — a law that was enacted more than 35 years ago.

Spill Log: Puget Sound spills cap off busy week, Partnership sounds alarm

By Curt Hart, Communications Manager, Spills Program

On Thursday October 13, I wrote a blog about the oil spill affecting New Zealand and how two recent incidents involving commercial vessels in Washington’s waters highlighted similar spill risks here.

Oil spill in West Seattle

Anyone who turned on their TV, radio, surfed the web, or read a newspaper last Friday October 14 probably heard about the vessel that sank in Puget Sound about 1.5 miles south of Alki Point in West Seattle.

The Justin, an old military landing craft that had been converted into a construction vessel, sank at about 7:30 a.m. in about 20 feet of water. Ecology and the Coast Guard are still investigating how much oil spilled to Puget Sound. We do know that there were 2 miles of nearby shoreline affected by the spill.

Late Saturday, the Justin was lifted from the water, placed on a barge, and taken to a shipyard in Tacoma. It will take some time before our investigation is complete about why the craft sank, how much spilled, lessons learned from the response, and it affected the environment.

Spills from vessels in Tacoma, Gig Harbor

Ecology also responded to two other vessel spills to Puget Sound on Saturday October 15 – about 100 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from fishing tender vessel in Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma and a smaller spill occurred when a construction barge sank in Gig Harbor.

While we issued media releases describing both spills, I must apologize. While covering media calls for the spill in West Seattle, I literally ran out of time to give the public an update about the barge spill in Gig Harbor. So quickly:
  • We estimate that less 25 gallons of diesel fuel was spilled in total.

  • The barge owner, Marine Floats, immediately notified state and federal authorities about the spill.

  • Marine Floats was able to pump the fuel remaining in the crane after the barge sank.

  • The company put out their own oil containment boom to contain the spill in the harbor.

  • Gig Harbor fire and police departments also put out 200 feet of boom Ecology provided in 2006.

  • By Sunday, the company had successfully refloated the barge and towed it to their yard in Tacoma.

During recovery operations, no more oil spilled.

Puget Sound Partnership calls for action

On Tuesday October 19, the Puget Sound Partnership issued an interesting press release about oil spill risks in Washington and how the Partnership plans to add their support to Ecology’s efforts. Partnership Executive Director Gerry O’Keefe said that “three serious oil spills and two close calls this past week sounded an alarm that showed how vulnerable Puget Sound is to a devastating environmental disaster.”

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and Martha Kongsgaard, who chairs the Partnership’s Leadership Council, jointed the call for action.

In the release, the Partnership announced they will be reconvening the Oil Spill Work Group to evaluate and make recommendations to reduce spill risks to our waters.

The Partnership also called on the Coast Guard to work with the state to assess the oil spill risks associated with the increasing maritime trade in the Puget Sound waters that we share with Canada.

“These close calls and other incidents are a wakeup call. Puget Sound can’t wait any longer, we must make additional progress now toward meeting the state’s zero oil spill goal,” Kongsgaard said.

Ecology looks forward to working with the Partnership’s Oil Spill Work Group and the Coast Guard to assess and reduce the oil spill risks we face every
day.

Last week was very busy.

We’re grateful these strong community leaders have added their voices of support to help Washington make progress toward its goal of zero spills to our waters.

Why the state’s municipal stormwater permits matter

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, Water Quality Program

Most people get this idea: What we do on the land causes pollution problems in our lakes, rivers and Puget Sound.

Polluted runoff

Runoff from surfaces in populated areas picks up chemicals and bacteria and carries it downstream into our waters. Right now, polluted runoff is the biggest threat to urban-area lakes, rivers and Puget Sound.

Most of the time, stormwater is not treated, even when it goes into a street drain.

So right now we’ve got pollution problems caused by existing development and we’re going to have future pollution problems as we build out our land.

Getting to clean water through stormwater permits

One of the ways Washington and the nation address polluted runoff is through Clean Water Act stormwater permits. The most populated areas must come under the permits, and in our state, the Washington Department of Ecology administers them.

The stormwater permits are to be updated every five years and they are designed to gradually increase environmental protections over time with each new update.

State & local governments work together

We’ve just come out with proposed, updated stormwater permits for the state. They provide greater environmental protections while recognizing that local governments are currently strapped for resources.

We've involved local governments in developing the new proposed permits and we intend to keep them involved as we finalize them.

Read more about the proposed permits and get involved by attending a public workshop. We welcome your comments — we’re taking them until Feb. 3, 2102.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Air Time: Events focus on Pierce County air quality

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

In the next week, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency will host two events to talk about air quality problems in Pierce County and possible solutions.

A portion of Pierce County covering a large part of Tacoma and neighboring cities is designated as a “nonattainment area.” That means the air quality within the area failed to meet federal health-based standards for air pollution levels – in this case, levels of very tiny fine particles known as PM2.5.


The Fine Particle Problem

The particles are smaller than the diameter of a human hair, so they can be easily breathed in and cause health problems such as asthma and heart and lung disease. They also can cause death.

The primary sources of the particles in the nonattainment area are smoke from burning wood in wood stoves and fireplaces, and exhaust from motor vehicles.

Check here for a description of the nonattainment area's boundaries and a map.


Public Input Schedule

Puget Sound Clean Air is working with local residents and other stakeholders to recommend actions to Ecology.

In turn, Ecology will put together a plan to improve air quality, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will review.

Here is more information on nonattainment and the related process.

Puget Sound Clean Air is holding two open house events in coming days. You can find more information at http://www.cleanairpiercecounty.org/, but here are some basic details:

Thursday, October 20, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
(6 p.m. presentation)
South End Community Center
7802 South L Street, Tacoma

Monday, October 24, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
(6 p.m. presentation)
Puyallup Public Library
324 South Meridian, Puyallup


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ecology, Gig Harbor fire and police departments responding to oil spill in Gig Harbor

By Curt Hart, Communications Manager, Spills Program

Ecology and Gig Harbor fire and police departments are responding to an oil spill in Gig Harbor in Pierce County.

A barge owned by Marine Floats with a 5-ton deck crane sank in the harbor. The sunken barge has leaked an unknown amount of fuel, causing an oil sheen on the water. The fuel has been removed from the barge crane.

The barge owner has deployed boom and absorbent materials to help contain the spill.

More information about the spill will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

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

For more information, call Curt at: 360-480-7908 cell (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

Ecology, Coast Guard and others responding to diesel spill from fishing support vessel at Tacoma's Hylebos Waterway

By Kathy Davis, Communications Manager, Hazardous Waste Program

Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard, Tacoma Fire Department and Washington State Maritime Cooperative (WSMC) are responding to a diesel spill at the mouth of the Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma.

The 195-foot fishing tender, “Eastern Wind” spilled an unknown amount of diesel while transferring fuel within the vessel – from one tank to another. The vessel’s owner, Trident Seafood, had placed boom around the vessel prior to fueling as is its practice, so boom was already in place when the spill occurred. The recoverable diesel is now contained within the boomed area.

A clean-up contractor, NRC-Environmental Services, will also be assisting in the spill response.

All spills matter, regardless of size. Diesel fuel is an environmental poison and adds to the toxic load already impacting Puget Sound.

For more information call Kathy at: 360-701-9254

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cleaning Up: Camp Bonneville cleanup moving ahead

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

We started seeking comments today (Friday, Oct. 14) for a proposed change in how cleanup work will move ahead at the sprawling Camp Bonneville site in Clark County.

Ecology is overseeing the cleanup of the former military reservation, which the U.S. Army used for firing range practice and training from 1910 to 1995.

In March 2006, Ecology, Clark County and the Bonneville Conservation Restoration and Renewal Team (BCRRT) signed a Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree. The decree outlined the cleanup process and schedule for Camp Bonneville; BCRRT led the cleanup work.

BCRRT has completed its involvement in the project. Now we’re proposing to amend the Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree to outline how Clark County will lead cleanup efforts, which the Army will continue to fund.

Here’s our news release about the comment period on the proposal.

In other recent cleanup news, here’s a story from The Olympian about soil sampling around the new Olympia City Hall, which is a cleanup site. The property previously was home to a Safeway grocery store, a service station and other automotive-related uses.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spill Log: NZ oil spill and incidents at home

By Curt Hart, Communications Manager, Spills Program

Photo of the St. Elias barge incident, near Anacortes
A dry-cargo barge, St. Elias, aground five miles southwest of Anacortes, Wash., in Rosario Strait, Oct. 10, 2011.
Local communities along New Zealand’s North Island are bracing today for the potential impacts of a 450,000 gallon oil spill along that nation’s North Island.

The spill started October 5 after the Rena, a 775-foot Liberian-flagged containership ran aground on a reef 12 miles from shore. The grounding damaged the vessel’s structure causing the fuel tanks to leak.

More than 100,000 gallons has already spilled.

The dark oil is heavy and persistent, and responders anticipate the remaining 350,000 gallons will also likely spill. Wildlife experts have already collected 500 dead seabirds. Many more birds will likely perish without being found. To make things worse, bad weather has halted response operations.

It also raises the question: Could something like the Rena spill happen here?

Ecology works to prevent, prepare for, and respond to oil spills

In Washington State, thousands of commercial ships from all over the world transit over our waters every year. Our maritime industry is vital to the state, national, and global economy.

The Department of Ecology sets pretty high standards to reduce the likelihood the vessels will cause pollution problems, especially oil spills. We also make sure these large vessels can quickly respond to any spill that might occur.

This is important because an oil tanker can carry up to 36 million gallons of crude oil as cargo and large commercial freighters can carry up to about 3 million gallons of fuel to power its engines and other systems.

For the most part, our maritime industry is very responsible and takes oil spill prevention and response very seriously. They know the environmental, economic, and cultural costs of a major spill would be staggering. We’ve calculated that a major spill here could cost Washington’s economy nearly $11 billion and impact 165,000 jobs.

The last big oil spill to hit our waters happened seven years ago on October 13, 2004, when the Polar Texas spilled between 1,000 to 7,000 gallons of crude oil in Dalco Passage between Point Defiance and Vashon-Maury Island in Puget Sound.

We don’t need to go back 18 months ago to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to remind us of our vulnerability. Unfortunately, we had two incidents happen just this week that reminded us why we can’t be Pollyannaish about the spill risks to our state.

Monday barge grounding in the San Juan Islands

On Monday October 10, there was a lot of news coverage about the a 322-foot dry-cargo barge called the St. Elias that ran aground five miles southwest of Anacortes in Rosario Strait in the eastern San Juans.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Ecology are still investigating how the barge wound up on the rocks.

As part of the coordinated federal-state response to the incident, Ecology deployed emergency spill responders and vessel specialists to the scene. It is our job to help ensure no oil spilled. If it does, Ecology helps make sure the oil is rapidly contained and cleaned up.

Fortunately, the St. Elias barge wasn’t carrying very much oil but did contain explosives. And that meant the Coast Guard had lead authority over the incident with Ecology’s assistance. If there had been a spill or spill threat, we would have had shared responsibility for the response.

Ecology was surprised to learn that the St. Elias was carrying more than 18 tons of explosive military cargo. We were greatly relieved no one got hurt and that after an initial inspection the barge was able to be successfully towed to Indian Island near Port Townsend.

What didn’t surprise us was the 10-foot by 10-foot hole divers found in the St. Elias’ forward starboard hold. After all, it was a very hard grounding.

We were fortunate. The St. Elias wasn’t a fuel barge. It could have been — and if so, we’d be facing a similar-sized spill like the one going on in New Zealand — or possibly something even much worse.

Egyptian containership loses power, propulsion Tuesday

The following day, Tuesday October 11, Ecology was again working closely with the Coast Guard to monitor and manage another incident involving a large commercial ship.

The Edfu, an empty 728-foot Egyptian bulk carrier lost power and propulsion in the Pacific Ocean about 9 miles west of Cape Disappointment, near the mouth of the Columbia River. The vessel was on its way to Kalama, Washington, to load grain for export.

But in this case, empty doesn’t mean empty of oil. While the Edfu didn’t have any cargo, it was carrying 98,000 gallons of black fuel oil and 2,700 gallons of diesel fuel on board. We were worried the ship would drift and run aground creating an oil spill and a salvage problem.

Fortunately, the vessel was able to deploy its anchor Tuesday night. Yesterday, the vessel regained power but was ordered 25 miles out to sea, escorted by two ocean-going tugs. As a precaution, it stayed out a second night.

This morning, the Edfu crossed the Columbia River bar with the tugs and is now moored in Astoria, Oregon. No oil was spilled. But the incident kept Ecology busy planning for the worst but hoping for the best. And we certainly appreciate the way our Coast Guard partner went out of the way to protect our state.

We and the Coast Guard have boarded the ship and we will work together to find why the Edfu lost power.

Could it happen here?

So back to the question: Could something like the New Zealand spill happen here in Washington?

We’d sure like to give everyone a definite “no.” Unfortunately, we have had similar spill risks in the past and continue to face similar risks to our waters. The St. Elias barge and Edfu grain ship incidents highlight just how close we came this week.

Ecology will stay vigilant and work hard with our many partners to prevent spills, ensure that industry is ready to respond, and be on the forefront to mount a rapid, aggressive and well coordinated response should such a spill happen.

Under a new law passed in the spring by the 2011 Legislature, Ecology will be working throughout 2012 to update the oil spill readiness rules to enhance our broader community’s ability to respond to an oil spill day or night, rain or fog, and during other bad conditions.

The stakes are high. But so are the risks. And we know that Washington’s economy, environment and quality of life is well worth of protecting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cleaning Up: Ecology asks for public's help in protecting human health

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Ecology is starting a public dialogue on how we can update environmental standards to be more protective of people who eat fish and shellfish from the state’s waters.

You can find out more information on this issue, and how you can participate in Ecology’s process, on this web portal and in this news release.

This effort follows progress Washington has made to prevent sources of toxic chemicals that contaminate our air, water, soil, food, and our bodies.

Washington has reduced mercury pollution and is phasing out persistent chemicals that build up in the food chain, such as toxic flame retardants. The state has taken steps to reduce and phase out the use of copper brake pads, lead wheel weights, copper boat paints, and chemicals in children’s products.

We know that eating fish and shellfish is an important part of a healthy diet. But toxic substances in the state’s waters and sediment can end up in fish and shellfish, which eventually are eaten by people.

To get at this problem, Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup and Water Quality programs are developing a more accurate view of how much fish and shellfish Washington residents eat.

Current science indicates that the current fish consumption rates do not accurately reflect how much of our state’s fish and shellfish Washingtonians actually eat each day. In fact, the available information indicates that some of us consume much larger amounts.

Ecology is asking for comments on a newly released technical support document, which focuses on fish consumption in Washington and existing environmental and human health information. The document is available through our web portal.

This is just the start of the conversation. We’ll keep you updated as the process unfolds.

Around the Sound: Landmark deal for Dabob Bay

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

The U.S. Navy and The Nature Conservancy announced a landmark deal last week to protect Dabob Bay in Jefferson County.

Dabob Bay is one of the most pristine, least developed and ecologically important estuaries in Hood Canal and Puget Sound. The Dabob Bay range is also the Navy’s premier location in the United States for research, development and testing of underwater systems, according to a news release from The Nature Conservancy.

The deal calls for the Navy to provide The Nature Conservancy with money to buy land around the bay. The idea is to keep the land from being developed and encroaching on the bay’s natural environment and on the Navy’s research work.

Here are stories on the agreement from the Kitsap Sun and the Peninsula Daily News.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages the Dabob Bay Natural Area Preserve, which you can read about here.

And here’s DNR’s blog post on the deal.

Barge aground

The Navy was making Puget Sound news of a different kind on Monday.

You probably saw media coverage of Monday’s grounding of a munitions-carrying Navy barge near Anacortes. It appears there was no discharge of oil into the Sound or any other environmental problems.

But the incident is just one more reminder of the types of materials transported around the Sound that could cause some real environmental damage.

Here are some examples of the news coverage:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our Changing Climate: Melting ice means more Arctic ship traffic?

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Photo of broken up ice on an unidentifiable body of waterThe Seattle Times has this interesting story about how less ice in the Arctic is expected to mean more ship traffic in the region.

Melting, thinning ice would open up more navigable waters for increased shipping of goods, more scientific exploration and more tourism activity.

The catch is the United States is in danger of lagging behind in exploration efforts because its icebreaking vessels are so antiquated or underpowered.

The Times article describes how the nation’s two heavy-duty icebreakers are idled in Seattle. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington is involved in trying to sort things out.

In other news, The Olympian reports that some Thurston County business owners and homeowners are benefiting from their investments in energy efficiency.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cleaning Up: Lower Duwamish work forges ahead

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Combined efforts to clean up the Lower Duwamish Waterway in south Seattle took a major step forward this week.

Work is under way on cleaning up the site known as Slip 4, one of the major pollution “hot spots” in the Lower Duwamish, which is a federal Superfund site.

“The cleanup of Slip 4, about three miles upstream from Harbor Island, near the Georgetown community, comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers how to clean up the rest of the five-mile portion of the river. EPA’s cleanup plan is expected to be issued next year,” according to a city of Seattle news release issued in conjunction with a kickoff for cleanup work.

Seattle is one of the major cleanup partners, as is Ecology. You can read here about Ecology’s efforts.

Here’s some coverage from KOMO-TV about Thursday’s event.

And here’s a nice perspective piece on the Lower Duwamish from earlier in the week by Phuong Le of The Associated Press.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Tool Helps Ecology Help Fish

By Tim Hill, Office of Columbia River

Ecology’s Office of Columbia River (OCR) has a new tool to help us find the streamflow improvement projects that provide the most benefits to fish. Created with the help of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the “Columbia River Instream Atlas ” identifies where fish may be struggling and why and where we might have the most success with our streamflow investments.

We look at three important factors when making streamflow enhancement decisions: habitat, streamflows, and the amount of fish in a stream. The Atlas scores each of the factors for portions of streams, called reaches, located in eight of the most “fish critical” watersheds in eastern Washington. The scores allow us to tailor projects to make needed improvements and maximize returns.

A good candidate for water enhancement might be a reach that scores low in fish utilization, poor in streamflows, and fair or good in habitat. A little extra water in that reach would provide a lot of benefit to fish.

Alternatively, a reach that scores poor in habitat, low in fish utilization, and poor or fair in streamflows would likely require habitat restoration before streamflow issues are tackled.

But before OCR funds any instream flow project, it must find a new water supply nearby to provide the water. It’s a tough job, but OCR is working hard to do it. The Office has developed nearly 150,000 ac-ft of new supply since 2006.

The Atlas is part of a larger “Columbia River Basin Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast” (Forecast) OCR will publish in November. Both documents are currently available in draft form. You can download them here. OCR is accepting comments on the Atlas and the Forecast though October 31st.

The Legislature created OCR in 2006 and tasked it with finding new water supplies to meet instream and out-of-stream water needs.

Good News for the Environment

By Barb MacGregor, Web Communications Manager

Before I worked at Ecology, I thought of the agency as a bunch of people who make and enforce regulations. True, the regulations help protect the environment and enforcers make sure the rules are followed. But I just never imagined it was the kind of place where my background in environmental education and stewardship would fit.

Well, I’ve been here more than three years now, and I’ve seen and learned so much more about the people here and the work they do. Yes, they all care about protecting the environment. But they also care about the quality of life in our communities across the state. And healthy communities depend on a healthy environment and a healthy economy. These things are not mutually exclusive!

I thought I’d start sharing some of the good news I see in the media – stories that help show the connection between the work we do at Ecology and how it helps support healthy communities. If you see stories I’ve missed, please share the links with us by commenting below! You are always welcome to comment on any of our EcoConnect stories.

Here are some good news stories from last week:

From the Yakima Herald:
From the Tri-City Herald:
From the Seattle Times:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our Changing Climate: Walking our talk (part 2)

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

I’ve written previously about Ecology’s Carbon Smart initiative. The effort aims to reduce our own climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and also help other state agencies, businesses and individuals.

Here are two more ways that we are working to “walk the talk”:
The charging stations are free to anyone who wants to use them, not just Ecology employees. That’s a requirement of state law.

The stations provide both 120 volts and 208 volts for charging.
  • We’re also offering a repair station for those Ecology employees who telecommute to work at Lacey HQ via bicycle. You can read about that here on our Carbon Smart web page.

Air Time: Fight urge to burn falling leaves

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Autumn sends some people searching for their rakes, so they can gather falling leaves and other yard waste into a pile for burning.

But don’t strike that match just yet.

Lighting up the leaves is illegal in most Washington cities and all urban growth areas because such burning produces smoke that can harm your health when you breathe it. Here’s an Ecology news release with more information.

Instead, take a little time to figure out what you can do with yard waste without burning. That could include chipping material, composting it or taking it to a composting facility.

Our Air Quality Program offers some handy online help, including a clickable map that shows a county-by-county rundown on some of the alternatives to burning in your area.