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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Around the Sound: Ecology reviewing a draft report on the Rayonier Mill upland

By Marian Abbett, Site Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

On November 15th, on schedule, I received Rayonier’s draft Upland Data Summary Report. This report pulls together all the contamination data we have for contamination on the Rayonier Mill property.

Why is this report important?

We call this report “Volume One” for short. It is the first of four volumes that will make up the cleanup plan for a large piece of the Rayonier Mill site, called the Study Area. The soil and groundwater data will help Rayonier pick cleanup methods that protect human health and the environment.

Rayonier collected soil, groundwater, and surface water samples this past year to fill data gaps from previous studies. Volume One pulls together the new data with the old data.

When can the public see the report?

The draft I have is an “agency review draft.” We will work with Rayonier to ensure they have a “public review draft” early next spring. We will post that public review draft online and make it available at the Port Angeles Public Library and Peninsula College Library.

Will there be a public comment period on Volume One?

No, we will not hold a public comment period until 2013, when we have the marine data report (Volume Two) and Rayonier’s analysis of cleanup options (Volume Three). This will be a good chance to provide comments on Rayonier’s ideas for cleanup before it writes the cleanup plan, called an Interim Action Plan.

You will also have a chance to comment on the draft cleanup plan before Rayonier begins work.

Track cleanup progress and find more Rayonier Mill cleanup information.

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Eating from your garden

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Growing your own fruits and veggies can be rewarding and healthy...even if you may have arsenic and lead in your soil. Many gardeners in the Tacoma Smelter Plume have asked us whether they can still eat from their gardens.

The answer is yes, but you should still take precautions.

Most plants don't take up much arsenic and lead into their edible parts.

One exception is spinach and other leafy greens. They can take up small amounts of arsenic and lead. If you know or suspect your soil is contaminated, build a raised bed for growing leafy greens.

The greater risk is from eating dirt or dust stuck to the outside of your produce.

It's always a good idea to wash your fruits and vegetables carefully. Peel root vegetables to be sure you aren't eating any dirt. You can also grow vegetables in raised beds.

Know your materials when you build garden beds.

Do not use arsenic treated ("CCA") wood because it can release arsenic into your soil. We also recommend avoiding old railroad ties because they can contain creosote, which is also a toxin.

Put a weed barrier fabric (or "geotextile") at the bottom of the bed and put the clean soil on top. This will let you know when soil in the box is getting low. It will also keep plants from growing their roots into soil that might be contaminated.

Ask your soil supplier about their soil quality before buying.

The state does not regulate soil sellers. However, many suppliers will test for metals, petroleum, and other contaminants. Ask them for their test results to make sure you aren't bringing contamination into your yard.

Use gardening gloves and wash your hands after working outside.

This helps prevent accidentally eating contaminated soil stuck to your hands and under your fingernails. Don't worry about touching soil because arsenic and lead don't absorb well through the skin.

For more information, King County has a gardening brochure with other resources. You can find gardening tips from natural yard care programs King County and Pierce County.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Multiple agencies respond to gasoline spill in Bellevue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 2:30 a.m., November 28, 2011

BELLEVUE – The state Departments of Ecology and Transportation, Washington State Patrol, Bellevue Fire Department, a private cleanup contractor and other teams are responding to a gasoline spill after a tanker overturned on Interstate 405 on Sunday evening in Bellevue.

Up to 3,400 gallons of gasoline is believed to have spilled to the roadway, soil and storm drains near Northeast Eighth Street and I-405 near downtown Bellevue and just north of Highway 520. Some gasoline is confirmed to have reached Lake Washington, but it’s unclear how much. The tanker was believed to be carrying a total of 6,350 gallons.

Interstate 405 remains closed while cleanup crews work to contain the spill and clear the scene. The trucking company, Lee & Eastes Tank Lines, Inc., has hired a contractor, MRSA, to coordinate the cleanup. Ecology will remain on the scene to oversee the cleanup process.

According to the Washington State Patrol, the accident occurred when a car struck the tanker truck, causing the rear tank to roll over. A second vehicle appears then to have struck the overturned tanker.

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.

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Media contact:
Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology, 360-701-7401, Dieter.Bohrmann@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:
Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)
Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ecology, SPU and Coast Guard responding to gasoline release at south end of Lake Union

UPDATE: Nov. 24, 2011 (11 a.m.)
On Wednesday evening (Nov. 23, 2011), Ecology and Seattle Public Utilities worked closely with the owner of the property with the old gasoline storage tank. The property owner quickly hired a private cleanup contract to secure the site to keep any more gasoline-contaminated surface water runoff from further reaching the city's storm drain system — including stacking sandbags and building extra containment for runoff at the site.

This morning, the U.S. Coast Guard, Ecology and SPU inspected the outfall pipe that drains to Lake Union and determined no more gasoline was reaching the lake.

Ecology and SPU will continue their investigation next week about how residual gasoline from the old gas station underground storage tank, installed in 1949, reached the city's storm drain system. Officials will continue to monitor conditions through the holiday weekend.

FIRST REPORT: Nov. 23, 2011 (8 p.m.)
SEATTLE – The state Department of Ecology, Seattle Public Utilities and U.S. Coast Guard are responding to a gasoline spill from a stormwater outfall in the south end of Lake Union located at Ward Street and Fairview Avenue North.

The apparent source of the spill is an underground fuel tank associated with a former gas station located at Ninth and Madison, approximately six blocks away. An undetermined amount of gasoline has mixed with the stormwater runoff and is being discharged to the lake.

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

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Media contacts:
Curt Hart, Department of Ecology, 360-480-7908
Andy Ryan, Seattle Public Utilities, 206-619-3893
Shawn Eggert, U.S. Coast Guard, 206-819-9154

For more information:
Ecology Spills Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html)
Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ecology Volunteers Harvest for Families in Need

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

On a recent cloudy Saturday, 35 volunteers – Ecology employees, St. Martin’s University students, Evergreen State College students, Kiwanis Club members, and Washington Conservation Corps members – came together to harvest potatoes and winter squash from the food bank garden located on the grounds of Ecology’s Lacey Headquarters.

Almost a ton of food, including 1650 pounds of potatoes and 40 pounds of winter squash, were donated to the Thurston County Food Bank for distribution to families in need!

The day was great fun! Thanks to the large turnout, all the potatoes were out of the ground and in crates by 11:30. After harvesting wrapped up, many folks took a break to enjoy a potluck lunch and get to know one another. A handful of committed volunteers remained after lunch to till the potato field, organize the tool shed and weed the garden fence-line of potentially invasive plants.

Planning for Sustainability

Ecology’s Sustainability Plan has long included “contributing to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the communities that host Ecology facilities” as a goal. The Sustainability Team, inspired by Olympia Kiwanis Club’s Capitol Campus garden, saw a food bank garden at Ecology as a great opportunity for employees to volunteer in support of the community.

It took several tries to find the right fit for Ecology. Charitable activities are carefully regulated to ensure appropriate use of state funds. To remain ethically responsible, employees volunteer at the food bank garden only on their own time. Work parties are held before work, during the lunch hour, after work and on weekends.

The food bank garden is dependent on partnerships. Ecology Administrative Services allowed access to the land and provided water for the garden’s drip irrigation system. Kiwanis provided use of their heavy equipment and best practices advice for starting and maintaining food bank gardens. The Washington Conservation Corps provided support for necessary one-time garden projects, such as the deer fence and drip irrigation system, through AmeriCorps funding that is dedicated to promoting community service.

Employees have generously donated used garden tools, use of their gardening equipment, a beautiful garden sign and more than 400 volunteer hours. All of these partners were vital to the success of the garden’s first growing season!

A big thanks to all the people who helped make the harvest day a success — it was a very enjoyable way to end the food bank garden’s first growing season!

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Questions about arsenic and lead in soil

By Amy Hargrove, Soil Safety Program Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

At all three of our recent public meetings — Tacoma, Vashon Island, and University Place — we heard similar questions about arsenic and lead in soil. This blog goes through a little of the science of the Tacoma Smelter Plume...


Will the arsenic and lead in soil leach out or decrease over time?

In general, no. Arsenic and lead bind strongly to “soil organics” — mostly decomposed plant matter. This prevents them from immediately washing away with rain or seeping deeper into the ground. Over a long span of time, like hundreds of years, arsenic and lead may move into deeper soil. For now, Tacoma Smelter Plume contamination is sticking around.

Arsenic and lead don’t break down, either. They are both elements, which means there is no simpler form they can break down into.


If that’s the case, how do you get rid of the contamination?

The best way to permanently get rid of Tacoma Smelter Plume contamination is to dig it up and take it to a landfill. For lower arsenic levels (under 40 parts per million), you can mix contaminated soil with clean soil to dilute out the arsenic and lead.

Another method is to cover contaminated soil with a thick fabric and a layer of clean soil on top. This keeps people from coming in contact with the arsenic and lead below.


h3certain plants take arsenic out of the soil?

Yes, but... Ecology did a study a few years ago using the Chinese brake fern to clean up soil. Unfortunately our climate was too harsh for the ferns. Also, when you use plants to clean up soil, the plants themselves become dangerous waste!

Learn more about Ecology’s cleanup plans.

The photo? A chunk of pure arsenic.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Changing Climate: More floods, drought on the way?

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a new report that concludes climate change will cause more flooding and drought conditions.

This Washington Post story notes:

“The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.”

In addition, here’s a piece that ran in the Vancouver Sun in British Columbia, which focuses on the work of an international team of scientists who say “a massive release of greenhouse gases likely caused the world's worst extinction.”

Ecology’s Director Sturdevant tells D.C. panel why federal chemical policy needs updating

By Ken Zarker, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant testified on Nov. 17 at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 . In conveying his views, Ted outlined the reasons why states care about modernizing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). He talked about what states have had to do faced with an outdated and ineffective federal chemicals policy.

The committee also heard testimony from Charlotte Brody, director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry for the BlueGreen Alliance; Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council; Robert Matthews, counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge; and Dr. Richard Denison, senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund.



Coordinated effort among states

I’ve found that working with other leadership states on TSCA reform has created better coordination on state chemicals management issues. Over this past week, Ecology worked with state environmental leaders from California, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) to issue a press release calling for federal leadership on chemical regulation.

In the absence of federal action, state legislatures have stepped in to address constituent concerns about chemicals. Over the past nine years, 18 states have acted on more than 81 individual state chemicals policy initiatives. According to a report by SAFER States and a recent New Hampshire poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council, these state policies have received high levels of bipartisan support among state legislators and their constituents.



Praise and concerns expressed

The tone of the hearing was generally positive, with praise for Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey and Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., for their leadership role. They worked with states and other stakeholders to help advance legislation that updates the 35-year-old TSCA law. Things did get a little testy with several senators challenging Cal Dooley to include suggested legislative language to help improve the bill.

Most key concerns for the states were addressed in a letter to Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Inhofe sent in August 2011. We are looking forward to continued dialogue and are open to suggestions to help improve the bill.

Read more in this Seattle Times article.



Cleaning Up: Celebrating in Skykomish

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

The town of Skykomish has gone through an amazing transformation in the past five years. Today (Friday, Nov. 18, 2011), the town’s residents and others will celebrate an historic pollution cleanup and their plans for the future.

A railway maintenance and fueling facility operated in Skykomish — located along Stevens Pass — from the early 20th century until 1974. Over the decades, bunker-C and diesel fuel oil were discharged to the environment in the rail yard.

The oil then flowed downward to the water table and under the town to the South Fork of the Skykomish River. The multi-year cleanup removed oil from underneath Skykomish, and heavy metals contamination in certain areas.

The town, its residents, Ecology, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway teamed up to relocate buildings, clean up large amounts of contamination, and restore and improve the town’s infrastructure and buildings.

You can read more about the project in this Ecology news release. Also, this website focuses on the cleanup.

In other news, the Port of Skagit is working on a taxiway cleanup at the Skagit Regional Airport west of Burlington.

Here’s a brief, recent Skagit Valley Herald article on the Taxiway F work, plus the port’s news release on the project. And here’s the Ecology webpage for the site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: University Place Public Meeting Recap

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Last night, we held our third of four public meetings for the Tacoma Smelter Plume cleanup plan in the cafeteria at Curtis High School. The crowd was smaller than our group on Vashon last week, with 32 in attendance.

People came from all over the Pierce County part of the plume. We heard many of the same concerns voiced at the meetings in Tacoma and on Vashon Island. However, the group raised some new issues that prompted discussion among the participants:
  • Could Ecology start a grant program to help developers pay for sampling and cleanup using funds from the proposed education and outreach budget?

  • Is there a need for citizen volunteers to help with outreach or even soil sampling?

  • Homebuyers should be educated about soil contamination but Ecology should not require sellers to do soil sampling and cleanup.

  • Can Ecology prioritize cleanup for homes with young children?
A major point of contention was whether our proposed work would stigmatize homes in the plume area and decrease property values. Would it be better to not know what was in the soil? One audience member responded that "we are all in this together, as a community" and that we should "do the best we can to face the problem."

We agree.

We have a duty to protect human health and the environment. Given what we already know about the contamination, we have an obligation to inform the public and do the best we can to protect communities.

Next Meeting

We are just about halfway through the public comment period, which ends December 20th.

The final public meeting will be Tuesday, December 6th, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Des Moines Activity Center (2045 South 216th St. in Des Moines).

Air Time: Snuffing out smoke problems

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

I’ve written fairly often about the health risks associated with breathing wood smoke.

Here’s the latest news on that front – Ecology is providing money to our clean-air partners to help get rid of old, high-polluting wood-burning devices.

Fine particles in smoke are so small they can easily get into your lungs. Once there, they can cause heart and breathing problems, and even death. People with asthma and respiratory illnesses, children and older adults are most at risk.

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

Pollution from fine particles has reached the point where a large portion of Pierce County has failed to meet federal health-based standards for that pollutant. That area is now considered to be in “nonattainment” status, an issue featured in this earlier “Air Time” post.

You can learn more about air quality issues in Pierce County at this website put together by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

And this video from the Pierce County TV public access channel also highlights the issue. The video shows Diane Bedlington, from Ecology’s Air Quality Program at our Northwest Regional Office in Bellevue, checking out the L Street monitoring station in Tacoma.

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Public Meeting in University Place November 16

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Tomorrow night we will be at Curtis High School for our third public meeting on a draft cleanup plan for the Tacoma Smelter Plume.

Wednesday, November 16, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Curtis High School cafeteria
8425 40th Street West, University Place

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

To preview the presentation slides, visit our comment period webpage. For more information, please contact me at Hannah.Aoyagi@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6790.


Tacoma Smelter Plume: Vashon Island Public Meeting Recap

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Last Wednesday, Vashon Island set a record for the largest public meeting any of our staff had ever witnessed. We had nearly 200 island residents in attendance, prompting a run for extra coffee cups!

We already had a large crowd by 6:00 p.m. and a lively open house session. After many good one-on-one conversations, we began the presentation (available on the comment period webpage). The question-and-answer session lasted an hour and a half and covered a wide range of topics.

Here are a few of the major questions and concerns we heard:
  • As in the Tacoma meeting, how much risk do arsenic and lead really pose?

  • Impacts on local farming—vegetables, fruits, and livestock.

  • Impacts on property values.

  • Disclosing contamination when selling a home (also covered in the Tacoma meeting).

  • Does drinking water pose a risk?

  • Can this project help provide jobs on the island?

  • How can someone find out what’s in their soil without waiting years for Ecology’s program?
I will be blogging about some of these questions and concerns. We will address the rest of them in the “responsiveness summary” for the comment period (available around February of 2012).

A responsiveness summary lists all written comments Ecology receives, and answers major questions. Sometimes we get hundreds of comments and cannot respond to each and every one, but often several people have the same question.

The photo? Taken at Lisabeula Park on south Vashon, in warmer times.

Monday, November 14, 2011

UPDATE: Agencies to monitor slow release of ammonia on Tulalip Reservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 2:30 a.m., November 14, 2011
News release #2
Media contact: Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology, 360-701-7401

TULALIP RESERVATION – The Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, and Tulalip Fire Department remain on the scene of a tank leaking ammonia on a marine beach on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Ammonia is a corrosive gas that is toxic if inhaled.

Because of the chemical and toxicological hazards of ammonia – and the challenges of removing the tank – the responding agencies have decided to leave the tank in place to vent over a period of two or three days. This slow release will allow the nearby ammonia concentrations to remain below safe levels for residents in the surrounding area.

During the slow release, security measures will remain in place at the site, and remotely-operated chemical monitors will be maintained to ensure ammonia vapor concentration remains below safe levels. After the remaining ammonia has vented, crews will remove the tank for disposal.

Ecology estimates the tank has capacity of up to 470 gallons of ammonia, or nearly 2,000 pounds. It is unknown how much ammonia was released or how much is in the tank, but it does not appear to be full. There are no homes in the immediate area, and no evacuations have been ordered. A nearby walking trail has been closed to the public until further notice. The ammonia odor is currently detectable at about 100 feet.

The origin of the tank is also unknown, but Ecology believes it has been in the water for several weeks and has been slowly releasing ammonia. The beach has been secured, but anyone coming upon the environmental response teams is asked to please respect the caution tape around the cleanup site and remain a safe distance away.

More information about the cleanup efforts will be provided as it becomes available.

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

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Multiple agencies respond to ammonia release on Tulalip Indian Reservation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 12:05 a.m., November 14, 2011
Media contact: Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology, 360-701-7401

TULALIP RESERVATION – The Washington Department of Ecology, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, Tulalip fire and fisheries departments and a cleanup contractor are responding to an ammonia release from a tank on a marine beach on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Ammonia is a corrosive gas that is toxic if inhaled.

Ecology has been on the scene since 4:30 p.m. Sunday and has hired NRC Environmental Services to conduct the cleanup effort. The contractor is currently performing an assessment to determine the safest means of removing the tank. EPA is monitoring air quality on the scene.

Ecology estimates the tank has capacity of up to 470 gallons of ammonia, or nearly 2,000 pounds. It is unknown how much ammonia was released or how much is in the tank. There are no homes in the immediate area, and no evacuations have been ordered. A nearby walking trail has been closed to the public until further notice. The ammonia is currently detectable at about 100 feet.

The origin of the tank is also unknown, but Ecology believes it has been in the water for several weeks and has been slowly releasing ammonia on the beach. The beach has been secured, but anyone coming upon the environmental response teams is asked to please respect the caution tape around the cleanup site.

More information about the release and cleanup efforts will be provided as it becomes available.

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

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Edfu arrives safely at Port of Tacoma

By Jim Sachet, Spills Response Manager, Southwest Regional Office

The M/V Edfu arrived safely in Tacoma shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday. The Edfu lost both of its anchors during a maneuver on the Columbia Bar on Thursday evening. Because sailing with no anchors is dangerous and the recent history of this vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard required that it be escorted by tug boats from Astoria through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Tacoma.

While in Tacoma, the vessel will be inspected by marine engineers, the Coast Guard and the Department of Ecology to identify the cause of propulsion problems, obtain anchors, and assure that the ship may safely sail in state and U.S. waters.

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Ecology incident website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/mvedfu_2/MVEdfu2.html)

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

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Friday, November 11, 2011

UPDATE: Emergency response tugs escorting cargo vessel to Port of Tacoma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 3:45 p.m., November 11, 2011
News release #2
Contact: Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology media relations; 360-701-7401

OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to escort a cargo vessel to the Port of Tacoma for inspection and repairs. The M/V Edfu is currently in the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Neah Bay.

The M/V Edfu briefly lost propulsion on Thursday evening and as it was crossing the Columbia River bar after leaving Astoria. The ship dropped both of its anchors then regained propulsion and is traveling under its own power. The Coast Guard ordered the vessel to hire tug boats to escort it on its trip from Astoria to Tacoma for inspection and repairs.

The tug boats Protector and Response are now providing escort. The M/V Edfu is expected to arrive in Tacoma about 3 a.m. Saturday.

The Coast Guard is reporting that the M/V Edfu lost propulsion due to a main engine failure and is missing both required anchors. Ecology will continue to work with the Coast Guard to monitor the ship. The Edfu was built in 1997 and is sailing under the flag of Egypt.

More information will be provided on Ecology’s incident website as it becomes available.

Ecology and the Coast Guard also responded last month when the Edfu lost propulsion near the mouth of the Columbia River on Oct. 11. In that incident, the ship was able to anchor and maintain its position. It eventually regained power and was escorted across the Columbia River bar to the Port of Astoria on Oct. 13.

Neah Bay tug an invaluable resource for spills prevention

Last year, after watching with concern the events of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Washington State Legislature passed laws that help continue protecting this state from the risk of major oil spills.

Commercial vessels like the Edfu are now required to immediately notify Ecology when they experience a vessel emergency such as a loss of propulsion. Early reporting allows us to work with the Coast Guard and take actions to protect our economy and environment before a spill occurs.

In this case, the Coast Guard ordered the Edfu to hire several tugs to assist in a safe transit to a port of refuge to determine the cause of the loss of propulsion. The privately-funded emergency response tug at Neah Bay is one of the tugs hired. Since 1999, this response tug has been called out nearly 50 times. On 11 of these responses the tug had to take disabled vessels in tow to prevent them from drifting onto the rocks and spilling oil. The actions taken in those cases helped prevent a combined spill potential of nearly 5 million gallons of oil.

Prevention of spills and early intervention before they occur are examples of best achievable protection for Washington. 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 under all conditions.

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Ecology incident website (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/mvedfu_2/MVEdfu2.html)

Ecology news release #1 (ecologywa.blogspot.com/2011/11/emergency-response-tugs-deployed-to.html)

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

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Emergency response tugs deployed to escort cargo vessel to Port Angeles

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 10, 2011, 9:50 p.m.
Contact: Dieter Bohrmann, Department of Ecology media relations; 360-701-7401

OLYMPIA – The Department of Ecology is coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to escort a cargo vessel from Astoria to Port Angeles after it briefly lost propulsion Thursday evening as it was crossing the Columbia River bar. The M/V Edfu has since regained power and is heading west before it turns north up the Washington Coast.

The Coast Guard directed the tug boat Triton out of Astoria to provide the initial escort. The Triton is expected to meet the M/V Edfu about 10:30 p.m. Thursday. The privately-funded tug out of Neah Bay, as well as two additional tugs from Puget Sound, have also been dispatched to assist with the escort.

The Coast Guard is reporting that the M/V Edfu lost propulsion due to a main engine failure and is missing both required anchors. Ecology will continue to work with the Coast Guard to monitor the ship. The Edfu was built in 1997 and is sailing under the flag of Egypt.

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

Ecology and the Coast Guard also responded last month when the Edfu lost propulsion near the mouth of the Columbia River on Oct. 11. In that incident, the ship was able to anchor and maintain its position. It was able to regain power and was escorted across the Columbia River bar to the Port of Astoria on Oct. 13.

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

Ecology homepage (www.ecy.wa.gov/)

Ecology response to Edfu incident Oct. 11-13 (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/incidents/MVEdfu/MVEdfu.html)

Around the Sound: Creosote stains the Sound

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

For decades, creosote was used for coating wood pilings for docks and other structures built in and over Puget Sound waters.

While many of those structures have deteriorated or fallen into disrepair, the chemicals from creosote-treated materials continue to leach into the Sound’s water and sediments and onto its beaches.

Ecology removes creosote and treated materials at various cleanup sites. For example, the photo above shows old pilings at the former Scott Paper Mill site on the Fidalgo Bay shore in Anacortes. The pilings were taken out as part of that cleanup project, described here in an earlier “Around the Sound” post.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also has a creosote-removal program.

Recently, two news stories looked at creosote’s impacts on Puget Sound.

The first is this KING-TV piece on the creosote compounds capped on the bottom of Eagle Harbor at Bainbridge Island. The in-water area is part of the larger Wyckoff federal Superfund cleanup site. Ecology also is involved in the cleanup, and we’re working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find a more permanent cleanup remedy for Wyckoff.

The former Wyckoff wood-processing site, on the edge of Puget Sound, contaminated the area with large amounts of creosote compounds produced by historic wood-treating operations.

The second story, published by The Herald in Everett, looked at the impacts of creosote on the Sound as outlined in Ecology’s new Puget Sound Toxics Assessment. Last week’s “Around the Sound” post focused on that study.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tacoma Smelter Plume: How do we tackle such a large cleanup site?

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Map showing the arsenic high-level zone around the Tacoma smelterThis blog follows up on my recap of our public meeting in Tacoma last week.

At over 1,000 square miles, the Tacoma Smelter is our state’s largest cleanup site. It is also one of our more complex sites because it impacts places where people live and where children play.

A $94 million settlement from Asarco will cover a great deal of cleanup work, but it’s not enough to clean up all the contaminated soil. So, we need to prioritize our work.

Protecting children

Our Soil Safety Program has already sampled over 1,000 play areas and cleaned up over 100 schools and childcares. Now, another $10 million is slated for continuing that work and cleaning up parks and camps, too.

We are also proposing putting $10 million into education and outreach over the next 10 years. Most of this would go to local health departments, with a strong focus on reaching children and the adults that care for them.

Making yards safer

An investment of $64 million should be enough to address the entire "high zone." This is the area shown on the map here, where arsenic levels could be over 100 parts per million (ppm).

We propose offering free soil sampling for every residence in this area. Yards with over 100 ppm average arsenic would qualify for free soil cleanup. Everyone else will receive advice on how to lower their exposure to contaminated soil.

Worst first

Some areas of the plume have very high levels of arsenic and lead. Our cleanup plan would tackle those areas first. This means probably starting in neighborhoods in the Superfund site, where we know yards still have high contamination. Vashon-Maury Island is another priority.

To learn more about the cleanup plan, please visit our public comment period webpage.

Our Changing Climate: Pine beetles and other news

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Photo of a pine beetleHere are some links to some recent news articles related to climate change:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Air Time: Ecology helps school districts reduce bus pollution

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Last week, Ecology’s Air Quality Program announced the latest round of funding that we’re providing to Washington school districts looking to cut fuel costs and harmful emissions from school buses.

Ecology helps school districts pay for idle-reduction technology. The devices allow drivers to warm school bus cabins, defrost windows, and circulate and heat engine fluids without idling the engines.

Ecology has identified diesel exhaust as the most harmful air pollutant in the state.

You can read more about this issue, and this latest round of funding, in this Ecology news release.

KING-TV’s Gary Chittim put together this report on the differences this funding has meant for the North Shore School District in Bothell.

You can learn more about our efforts to reduce harmful diesel exhaust on Ecology’s website.

Everett Smelter cleanup work is under way

By Meg Bommarito, Project Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Ecology has started cleanup work in an area of the Everett Smelter cleanup site.

Ecology’s contractor, Clearcreek, is removing contaminated soil from residential properties on Balsam Lane and Hawthorne Street. Cleanup this year will include 24 properties north and south of Broadway. Construction work will continue through the winter and should wrap up in early March.

In addition to moving forward with this year’s cleanups, Ecology staff continues to plan for next year’s work. This month, Ecology staff will start meeting with property owners whose yards are scheduled for cleanup in 2012.

We are also sampling two city parks this winter: Wiggums Hollow and American Legion Memorial Parks are scheduled for sampling in December 2011 and January 2012.

Ecology will work hard to keep the community up to date on the latest cleanup information. To find out what’s happening with the project, you can:
  • Check out the “latest information” link on the Everett Smelter website.

  • Stop by one of the site signs to see where we’re working and pick up a flyer with the latest information. Signs are located at 2901 Butler, 2709 5th St. and the 700 block of Hawthorne.

  • Visit with staff during office hours at the Baker Community Center, 1401 Poplar, from 9 to noon on Tuesdays and 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays.

  • Call the information line at (425) 530-5169 (local number) to speak to a staff member.

  • Check in with your neighborhood association president. Ecology will send regular information to the Delta Neighborhood and Northwest Neighborhood Association presidents.

  • Look for a door hanger on you front door – this means we will be working on or near your street.

  • Read these blog entries. We will update you on project status and more on the cleanup work planned for next year every couple of weeks.

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Public meeting November 9 on Vashon Island

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Join us on Vashon Island to learn more about our plan for cleaning up the Tacoma Smelter Plume!

McMurray Middle School cafeteria
9329 Cemetery Road, Vashon
(206) 463-9168

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.

There will be two more meetings! November 16 in Unversity Place and December 6 in Des Moines.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Around the Sound: New report looks at toxic pollution

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

On Thursday (Nov. 3, 2011), Ecology and the Puget Sound Partnership released the latest look at what’s known about toxic chemical pollution in the Puget Sound region.

The new Puget Sound Toxics Assessment is the final component of a multi-year, multi-agency effort that started in 2006 to understand where toxic chemicals come from, how they get to Puget Sound and the potential harm they cause to people, fish and other creatures.

Here’s a link to the report.

The report evaluated a variety of ways that toxic chemicals reach Puget Sound. These include surface water runoff — or stormwater — as well as groundwater releases, air deposition and wastewater treatment plant discharges.

Sources of Toxic Pollutants

It found toxic chemical pollutants come from many scattered and hard-to-reach sources throughout the Sound. The most common way toxic chemicals get into the environment is through polluted surface water runoff that flows off of residential, commercial and industrial areas.

When rain hits roofs, roads, and other hard surfaces in developed areas, it picks up and carries toxic chemicals with it. This polluted water then runs into storm drains and goes, mostly untreated, directly into area lakes, streams and rivers, as well as Puget Sound.

Toxic pollutants can threaten environmental and human health. Most don’t break down easily, and they stay in the environment a long time. They can enter the Puget Sound food chain and wind up in the bodies of fish, seals, orca whales and people.

Learn More

Here’s Ecology’s news release on the report. And here are some examples media coverage from the Kitsap Sun, The Associated Press and KUOW Radio.

For more background on toxic chemicals reaching the Sound, check out past blog posts here and here.

In addition, the Puget Sound Partnership recently announced its targets for protecting the Sound. Here’s the Partnership’s news release and the Kitsap Sun’s article and blog on the announcement.

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Tacoma Public Meeting Recap

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

Wednesday night, we held our first of four public meetings on a draft cleanup plan for the Tacoma Smelter Plume. Around 45 community members attended the event at Point Defiance Elementary School in Tacoma. After our slide presentation, we had a lively question and answer session that lasted nearly an hour!

We received a number of great questions from local residents and other stakeholders. Here are a few the questions and concerns we heard...

Will Ecology be doing more sampling in the Ruston and north Tacoma Superfund area?

Many of Wednesday's attendees lived in or near the Superfund site. We do plan to go back into the Superfund area and offer cleanup for yards that have contamination between:
  • Ecology's action level100 parts per million arsenic — and
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) action level — 230 parts per million arsenic.
We may take more soil samples, if needed, but we mainly plan to use the samples EPA took.

How much risk do arsenic and lead really pose?

Arsenic and lead are toxic and pose a risk to human health, especially for infants and children. The risk depends on how much you are exposed to and how sensitive you are. Our state cleanup law, passed by voter initiative, is designed to protect the most sensitive people, like children. This topic deserves its own blog, so we'll be posting something soon...

Do I have to disclose contamination if Ecology samples my property?

When selling a property, state law does require disclosing any known soil contamination. We recommend you consult with a real estate attorney if you have questions about disclosure.

Does Ecology really have enough money to clean up such a large area?

One of my next blogs will cover the last question about how we hope to tackle such a huge cleanup site with the funding we have.

For those unable to attend, our presentation slides are available on our comment period webpage.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When carpet cleaning, where should the wash water go?

By Brook Beeler, watershed education coordinator, Eastern Regional Office

Know how to dump smart

My mother-in-law pulled up to our house recently with my daughter, a huge pan of barbecued ribs, and a problem. Luckily the problem was not related to my six-year-old. It had to do with that delicious pan of ribs steeped in rich barbecue sauce and the carpet in her truck. It spilled and she was left with one heck of a mess.

So what is one to do when confronted with a carpet conundrum? Well believe it or not carpet cleaning is a bit of a hot topic and there a few things everyone should know.

Everyone makes mistakes

In September 2009, Ecology experienced its own “red-faced” moment when a contracted carpet cleaner at our Central Regional Office, dumped wash water directly to a storm drain.
    “To say the situation was a bit ironic is an understatement. Here, Ecology, the agency responsible
    for ensuring that cities and counties follow the new stormwater phase II program under the Clean
    Water Act was found to be violating the very requirements intended to protect water quality,”

Central Regional Director Tom Tebb said at the time.

Occurrences like this are called “teachable moments.” Did the carpet contractor know the storm drain leads straight to the Yakima River? And that carpet wash water is loaded with pollution?

Carpet wash water is toxic soup

Carpet wash water isn’t just dirt and water or barbecue sauce. It also may contain the very toxic chemicals we are trying to prevent from entering our environment. Wash water can be loaded with PBDE’s (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), a toxic flame retardant. PBDE’s are found in many household products including televisions, mattresses, and the carpets themselves. Heavy metals can bind to sediment that is tracked in by our pets and shoes.

Grease, oils, and detergents are also common in wash water. Dumping carpet cleaning wash water into our street drains -- which are usually not treated and essentially the headwaters to our lakes, rivers and streams – can add to big pollution problems.

Ecology has new, carpet cleaning advice

In response to our own carpet cleaning conundrum, we have developed advice to share with carpet cleaners and the people who hire them. You can see our two page Focus on Carpet Cleaning and Carpet Cleaning Quick Tips on our Washington Waters website in the @Work – Best Practices for Businesses section.

Dump Smart, it’s not just water

The state has made grants available to cities and counties across the state to provide stormwater runoff education – education related to anything that might run into the storm drains.
Special funding allowed a consortium of counties led by Snohomish County to initiate a program targeting mobile businesses, including carpet cleaners. The Dump Smart program encourages mobile businesses that use water to know the facts about best business practices in each jurisdiction.

Where should wash water go?

The bottom line is that wash water should be filtered and treated at a wastewater facility and never dumped down a street drain or into a residential septic system. The best way to get rid of water is through toilets or utility sinks connected to a sewer system. Sewer water goes to a facility where it is treated and cleaned before it is sent back into the environment. For areas without sewer systems, wash water should be collected and disposed at a proper disposal point.

Lucky for my mother-in-law, I knew the best practices for carpet cleaning and her mess didn’t end up harming the environment. When hiring a company to clean the carpeting in her truck, she asked the right disposal questions and ended up hiring a responsible company.

And here’s a tip: You can clean up many of these messes on your own with a little vinegar, water and a drop of detergent. Then be sure to dispose your wash water into a sewer system.

Remember to dump smart, because it’s not just water.