Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tacoma Smelter Plume: Why are some parks putting up “Dirt Alert” signs?

By Amy Hargrove, Soil Safety Program Coordinator

Earlier this month, Burien Parks & Recreation put up signs like this one at Dottie Harper Park. Signs will be posted at other parks in the coming months. We’ve heard some questions and concerns about the signs, so I’d like to provide a little bit more information…

Contamination has been in the soil for decades--why put signs up now?

In the summer of 2010, with new funding from a settlement with Asarco, we were able to include parks in the Soil Safety Program. Until then, we only had funding to work with schools and childcare play areas.

We spent the next year doing soil sampling for arsenic and lead at park play areas throughout the Soil Safety Program service area. Once we got the results, we began working with park districts to plan cleanup work. The results also helped us figure out where parks should post signs.

Point Defiance Park in Tacoma already has signs, and several other park districts are now getting ready to post their own.

What is the risk from playing in contaminated soils?

The main risk from contaminated soils comes from eating them, not from touching them. At the arsenic and lead levels we found, there is no immediate health risk, but there is a long-term concern. Over a long period of time, regular exposure to arsenic and lead can contribute to many different health problems.

Young children are most at risk because they play on the ground and put dirty hands and toys in their mouths. As a parent, you can take a few simple steps to greatly reduce your child’s exposure to any kind of contamination that might be in soils:
  • Watch young children to make sure they aren’t eating dirt.

  • Stick to the designated play areas at the park—Ecology is cleaning these areas up!

  • After playing and before eating, wash your child’s hands with soap and water.

  • Wash dirty toys.

  • Keep dirt out of your home by wiping or taking off shoes at the door.

Should I worry about walking my dog at the park?

Dogs and other animals are less sensitive to arsenic than humans are. Still, we recommend wiping off dirty paws and brushing off dirt so they don’t bring contamination into your home.

What’s next?

This year, we hope to finish many of our park play area cleanups and we will be working with different park districts to put up more signs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Boots on the Ground: House of Representatives lauds WCC efforts

by Bridget Mason, Washington Conservation Corps

We have an update to our Feb. 15th Boots on the Ground story!

On Feb. 23, 2012, the Washington State House of Representatives adopted a resolution honoring the 12 WCC members who, “served tirelessly to assist the tornado victims of Missouri and commend their display of leadership in tornado relief efforts...the House of Representatives express its thanks and appreciation to the Missouri State Legislature.”

On behalf of Ecology, we’d like to graciously thank all of them for their state and national service.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Our Changing Climate: Shifting zones and NASA's treasure trove

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Catching up on some recent interesting climate change news...

Shifting climate zones

First, here are a couple of articles on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s updated plant hardiness map – one from USA TODAY, the other from the Associated Press.

The new map uses 30 years of weather data gathered from 1976 to 2005 and is more precise than the 1990 version, showing smaller areas and accounting for higher elevations and bodies of water that can influence temperature.

Essentially, the map shows climate zones are shifting. Here’s a link to it.

News from NASA

Check out the news archive on NASA’s climate change website. It offers a treasure trove of interesting information on climate issues.

For example, scroll down to the entry that talks about 2011 being the ninth-warmest year on record. It contains a video with a neat time-lapse view of changing global temperatures over the past 100-plus years.

Other highlights include clouds that are lowering, concerns about deteriorating coral reefs, and the mapping of Earth’s trees. Give it a look.

The House that Fermi Built

by Tim Hill, Office of the Columbia River

History and place have always been a passion of mine. I’ve spent a good part of life trudging through brush and fields to find where Peo-peo-mox-mox was brutally killed or where Ranald MacDonald settled down after being freed from a Japanese prison.

I search out these places to feel what I call an “historical moment.” It’s hard to describe what that is exactly other than to say it’s an intense feeling of a sense of history. It’s as if the ghosts of those who once inhabited the site gather around me to share their joys, their fears, and their stories.

Sometimes, the historical moment feels so strong, I am overcome with emotion. The first time that happened was at Dover Green. I hadn’t really sought out that site—I was just killing time while my wife was interviewing for a job with the Delaware Department of Education. All of a sudden, I visualized farmers, storekeepers, millers, and tavern keeps, mustering as minutemen. I could feel their fear, their anger, and their yearning for self-determination. It shook me.

It happened again when I stood in the basement of the U.S. Supreme Court looking at the Brown v. the Board of Education decision. That document demonstrated that the system could work, that government can be a great force for good, that even the most evil, institutionalized injustices could be righted. It demonstrated that Langston Hughes’s America, the one that never was, could be the America of which he dreamed.


B Reactor

The last place I was overwhelmed by an historical moment was at B Reactor on the Hanford Site near Richland. As I entered the control room, I visualized Enrico Fermi hunched over blueprints at the small table in the back, creating something that had never been done at such a scale before. B Reactor is truly a monument to American ingenuity and what is often called the “can-do” spirit. In a few short months, the “greatest generation” turned a remote piece of shrub-steppe into the site of one of the greatest technological accomplishments of all time.

But as I entered into where the reactor is housed, I was reminded that B Reactor is also a monument to one of the greatest horrors of all time. The plutonium that was used in “Fat Man,” the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, was produced here. I thought about the more than 73,000 people who were killed by the bomb blast and the thousands more resulting deaths over subsequent decades. Opinions about the bombing of Nagasaki range from “horrible but necessary” to “horrible and shameful,” but no matter what one thinks about it, horror is part of the equation. A small part of that horror sliced through me as I stood there contemplating the victims.


Hanford’s Environmental Legacy

Later, as we visited the huge plutonium processing facilities, I thought about the piece of Hanford’s legacy we are dealing with today. About 56 million gallons of highly toxic,chemical and radioactive waste remains in aging underground tanks there, and the massive $12 billion facility being built to treat this waste is still years away from completion. Meanwhile. tritium, strontium-90, and technetium-99 plumes mix with the groundwater, threatening the health of the Columbia River.

Thankfully, the old B Reactor ingenuity and can-do spirit is being put to work on the environmental cleanup. It’s hard work and will take decades to complete, but with adequate funding from the federal government and continued vigorous oversight by EPA and Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program, it will get done. Maybe someday, my great-grandchildren will have an historical moment while strolling down a Hanford greenway trail.

Another round of Hanford Site tours is set to begin in April. Registration starts at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6. Historically, slots for these tours fill up within minutes, so you’ll want to be ready to register at the moment the registration site opens.




Air Time: Fire districts project is a big winner

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

We’re working with fire districts throughout Thurston County on a project that I call a “quadruple win.”

That’s because it’s expected to save millions in taxpayer dollars, reduce harmful air pollution (including climate-changing greenhouse gases), protect people and the environment, and create and support jobs.

And we’re getting these benefits for a relatively small investment – around $640,000 in state and federal money, which we’re providing as grants to the fire districts. The districts use the money to install pollution-reducing technology on some of their fire engines, ambulances and other vehicles.

You can read this Ecology news release for more details on the project.

This type of work started last year with the Poulsbo Fire Department, as described in this previous blog post. We’re hoping to partner with more fire districts in the future.

A Safer Chemical Future

Elisa Sparkman, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction Program

As administrative support staff, I am able to see the wide range of work that Ecology does through the many documents that cross my desk. I scour the documents for typos and formatting and wind up learning quite a bit!

Through my secretarial work, I have recently been learning about the agency’s role in federal legislation to reform the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works has been holding hearings in Washington DC to discuss reforming the act by passing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.

TSCA was passed over 35 years ago. Take a minute to think about what life was like in 1976 (or in my case, just imagine what it might have been like since I wasn’t quite born yet). What kind of products were out on the market? What were people wearing? I have to admit that I am thinking about polyester, sideburns, and disco… and my favorite Billy Joel album which was released that year.

Now that we’ve enjoyed some time travel… let’s jump back to the present. Come back to the world of smart phones, Lady Gaga, and social media. My point is not to reminisce about how popular culture has evolved (although that’s fun). My point is for us to think about how much more we know about what makes up the products we use and how much more we know about how chemicals can affect human and environmental health. We know more about the dangers of lead in paint, asbestos, mercury in cleaning products, and so on. A lot has changed in 35 years and in order to adequately protect my health and my family’s health, I would prefer public health legislation be current and as accurate as possible.

Thinking about how much more we know now than we knew in 1976 makes me think about all of the things we still don’t know. What is it going to look like 35 years from today? There is so much we don’t know… there will always be so much that we don’t know. In a world where new products and new chemicals are introduced all of the time, how will we ever keep up? TSCA reform paves the way for safer chemical alternatives to be used whenever possible and for new chemicals to undergo testing for consumers to be aware of any associated risks. This helps protect us from future toxic chemicals.

Reforming legislation that has been around for over 35 years is not easy. The U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works has been holding hearings to listen to testimony from state governments, non-governmental organizations, and the chemical industry. Many sectors of the national community can be affected by the proposed reform. Ecology is working with other states to bring forth their support and concerns for TSCA reform.

To read more about Department of Ecology and TSCA reform visit http://www.ecy.wa.gov/toxics/policy.htm.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

As mop-up continues at BP Cherry Point refinery, Ecology, EPA responders see no pollution threat to water but air monitoring continues

By Curt Hart, Department of Ecology, Spills Program

Responders from the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have determined that no oil or polluted runoff has reached Washington waters at the BP Cherry Point Refinery near Ferndale.

Ecology and EPA officials were at the refinery to assess and monitor potential environmental problems after a large fire broke out there the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 17, 2012.

Officials found that all water and other materials used to fight the fire – including related runoff – was contained within the refinery, where it will be treated in the facility’s on-site wastewater treatment system.

EPA contractors will continue taking air samples around the perimeter and downwind of the facility to help ensure the safety of nearby residents.

Contacts:
Curt Hart, Ecology Spills program, cell: 360-480-7908
Mark MacIntyre, EPA media relations, cell: 206-369-7999

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Conversations on Washington's Future: Do we need state environmental regulations?

By Ted Sturdevant, Ecology Director

This week, my Conversations on Washington's Future message describes how environmental standards support jobs and economic vitality — and what is at stake should those protections be weakened or eliminated.

Sometimes we need to step back and remind ourselves of the basics — how clean water, clean air and clean soil benefit our lives and our state as a whole.

The quality of our air, water and soil was made better by many people, working over several decades, to reduce, prevent and eliminate pollution. The environment they worked to protect has provided an economic benefit to our state as well — natural resources support nearly one-third of our state's economy through agriculture, tourism and recreation, forestry and waterborne trade.

Literally and figuratively, our state would be poorer without environmental protections. A growing number of people are recognizing this. They are working toward solutions that bring all interests to the table, solutions that support the environment and the economy and communities.

When we use that approach, the entire state wins.

See more Conversations on Washington's Future.

Follow these messages on Facebook and Twitter

For more information:
Overview of State Environmental Laws:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/quality_laws.html

Rulemaking and Economics:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/economics.html

Protecting Washington’s Quality of Life:
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/qualityoflife.html


Cleaning Up: Everett Smelter Plume progress report

By Meg Bommarito, Everett Smelter Cleanup Project Manager

Since November 2011, we have been hard at work removing contaminated soil and restoring landscaping for our first group of properties.

We’re right on schedule and should wrap up work on the 24 properties this spring. As cleanup for this group winds down, work on the next group of properties is already under way.

With so much work to be done there’s no time to waste. We have two areas of work planned for the next year:
  • Cleanup work is scheduled to begin in April or May for about 60 properties located along 5th and 6th streets and East Marine View Drive (near 8th and 9th streets). Ecology is currently working with these property owners to finalize cleanup plans for their individual properties.

  • We will also clean up property in the Everett Housing Authority’s Grandview Community. Work will take place in the fall of 2012 and will continue through May 2013.

That’s not all. We’ve also starting work with the property owners who are scheduled for cleanup in 2013. These properties will be mapped out and sampled this spring.

Want to track our progress? There are several ways to find out what’s happening:
  • Ecology’s website: Check out the latest information page to get the most recent information.
  • You can also check out our new photo gallery to see our progress first hand. Photos are updated regularly.
  • Office hours at the Baker Community Center on Tuesday morning (9 a.m. to noon) and Thursday afternoon (1 to 4 p.m.).
  • Look for our updates in the mail. If you are not on our mailing list, please email me at Meg.Bommarito@ecy.wa.gov, and I will add you to the list.


Boots on the Ground: WCC recognized for Missouri response efforts

by Bridget Mason, Washington Conservation Corps

Members of the Washington Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps recognized by the House of Representatives in OlympiaMembers and staff from Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps — affiliated with the federal AmeriCorps program — aren’t accustomed to spending their workdays seated in a clean, comfortable building.

They usually spend their days outside — rain or shine — planting trees or building trails.

Jan. 31, 2012, however, was an altogether unique day for WCC crew supervisor Rob Crawford and member Alex McCarty.


Missouri House honors AmeriCorps, including WCC

Rob and Alex were in Jefferson City, Mo., to witness the passage of a Missouri House resolution recognizing the contributions that AmeriCorps members from around the country made in May 2011, in Joplin, Mo.

Alex and Rob were representing 10 other WCC teammates who had been deployed to St. Louis, three weeks before the Joplin twister occurred, to clear downed trees and other debris from earlier storms.

On the evening of May 22, 2011, WCC crews were still in St. Louis where they had taken shelter from approaching tornados. Then, they got a request to move their response efforts to Joplin on the other side of the state.


Deadliest U.S. tornado in 60 years

The crews drove through the night, arriving in Joplin at 4 a.m. The devastation was beyond imagination.

The EF-5 tornado proved to be the nation’s deadliest in more than 60 years, killing 161 residents and destroying more than 7,000 homes, churches, schools and businesses.

The crews navigated blocked roads, bit by bit, making their way to the local Red Cross, where donations and volunteers began arriving shortly after 5 a.m.

There was quick work to accomplish. Our WCC members:
  • Operated volunteer registration centers and missing person hotlines.

  • Coordinated debris removal.

  • Conducted damage assessments.

  • Used chainsaws to clear paths so local first responders could enter damaged homes and businesses to rescue victims.

Cadre of AmeriCorps members in Joplin

AmeriCorps is a national network of programs that engages more than 70,000 Americans each year in service to meet community needs, from environmental degradation to illiteracy. It makes AmeriCorps an incredible resource for responding to disasters throughout the country.

The WCC program assisted in initial response efforts in Joplin alongside members from:
  • AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team

  • National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC)

  • Iowa Conservation Corps
As the long-term rebuilding effort in Joplin continues, almost 20 different AmeriCorps programs from around the country have been involved in helping residents. These AmeriCorps members put the infrastructure in place to ensure a coordinated effort in managing the 60,000 volunteers that flooded in to help. City officials estimate AmeriCorps managed and supported these volunteers who provided more than 579,000 hours of donated service worth more $18 million.

WCC members spring to action

When disasters happen, our WCC lines often get overwhelmed with calls from members and supervisors, volunteering to help. These are a group of caring people, willing to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, sleep on floors, and eat dehydrated food pouches for weeks on end.

While working on the tornado response in Missouri, WCC’s 10 AmeriCorps members and 2 crew supervisors provided 4,200 hours of service — including 1,140 hours spent serving the community in Joplin.

Our responders worked extremely hard during their 36 days of deployment – taking just three days of “rest.”

Joplin experience different than other incidents

The response to the terrible tornado in Joplin was a difficult one for our WCC responders. They witnessed death and disaster firsthand. Our WCC team members who went to Joplin returned with no pictures, explaining that they would have felt too guilty photographing such devastation.

In the past, our WCC crews have responded to ice storms in the Midwest and hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf Coast. They have conducted shelter operations in Texas after wildfires and helped Washingtonians recover after severe floods. Spending time with community members who have been affected by these disasters often has a profound and lasting effect on our WCC members. They are always humbled by the generosity of people who have lost so much but still take the time to deliver cold water or hot cider to the boots on the ground.

Recognizing all involved

During the Missouri House’s recognition ceremony, state Rep. Charlie Davis spoke about the diverse backgrounds of the 60,000 people who volunteered in Joplin.

As Alex said, he worked alongside volunteers from the United States and abroad, including people from Germany and Japan.

Rob said, “It was a privilege to be chosen to represent the WCC members and staff — and all the volunteers — who responded in Missouri.”

The following is a list of all WCC responders who were deployed to Missouri:
Taylor Barker
Rob Crawford, crew supervisor
Jeff Delarosa
Caleb Dobey
Alex McCarty
Chris McGinn
Aaron Minney
Matt Rowell
Mike Stowell, crew supervisor
Zach Schut
Sarah Stover
Horace Ward
On behalf of Ecology, we’d like to graciously thank all of them for their state and national service.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ecology plays advisory role in local critical areas ordinances

By Gordon White, Manager, Shorelands and Environmental Assistance Program

Questions occasionally come up about what role Ecology plays in the administration of critical areas ordinances.

The answer is simple: Ecology provides written legal and scientific guidance on wetlands protection, and we provide expert technical assistance and advice at the request of local government. This role is complementary to our separate authority to manage wetlands under several state and federal laws.

We don’t have regulatory authority in local critical areas ordinance issues. We don’t make rulings or issue enforcement actions under local critical areas ordinances. Those tasks are on local government turf.

But we do have professional, trained, experienced, qualified people on our staff who can help local jurisdictions. This service is essential to cities and counties that don’t have the expertise on staff.

One of the tasks cities and counties ask for our help with is reviewing wetland delineation reports. Wetland delineation establishes the location and size of a wetland for the purposes of federal, state and local regulations. Our staff determines if state and federal laws and accepted scientific protocols are followed in the preparation of these reports. According to those laws, wetlands must be delineated based on the 1987 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers delineation manual and applicable regional supplement.

Botany, soils, hydrology all part of wetland science

That brings us to another question that occasionally comes up: Do you need to be a geologist to assess wetlands?

The answer is no. Identifying and delineating a wetland relies on three interrelated areas of science: botany, soils and hydrology. Understanding geology (specifically hydrogeology) is one piece of the puzzle, but does not replace knowledge of wetland vegetation or wetland soils. In 2009, the state Geologist Licensing Board determined that wetland delineation is not the practice of geology. According to board policy, the board will not pursue complaints of unlicensed practice for “collection of groundwater level data for the sole purpose of wetland delineation.”

San Juan County example

Let’s use a recent video circulating the San Juan Islands as an example. The video is about the difficulty a landowner is having coming into compliance with San Juan County’s construction permitting requirements and critical areas ordinance after building a barn in a wetland buffer covered by the county’s critical areas ordinance.

Lacking staff wetland scientists of its own, the county asked Ecology for review of a wetland delineation report in January 2011. In February 2011, Ecology’s Paul Anderson — a wetland specialist certified as a Professional Wetland Scientist through the international Society of Wetland Scientists — provided his expert opinion: The report looked good, and the restoration planting it recommended, followed by professional monitoring to ensure the plantings were providing adequate protection, would have addressed the wetland buffer issues.

Upon receiving a second conflicting wetland report, San Juan County approached Ecology again for technical advice to assist county staff by reviewing and evaluating the reports.

Mr. Anderson again provided his expert opinion (PDF 153 KB): The first report better characterized conditions on the ground, and appropriately applied state and federal law.

The second report was not prepared according to those laws.

For example, the wetlands manual states soil color should be evaluated in the field immediately after the sample is taken. The second report states that the soil samples were taken to a laboratory, dried, and water was then added back before the soil color was evaluated. Trained wetland scientists know that drying and rewetting soil samples alters their colors and renders their interpretation unreliable for purposes of wetland delineation. Other wetland delineation errors were noted in the second report.

From Ecology’s perspective, restoration planting recommended in the first report, followed by a professional assessment to ensure the plantings were providing adequate protection, would have addressed the wetland buffer issues.

It is unfortunate that this problem has caused the landowner so much grief. It is also unfortunate that this case is being used to further an argument about qualifications for performing wetland delineation when that argument has already been resolved by the 2009 state Geologist Licensing Board policy.

More information

For questions and information about wetlands, Ecology's role in administering local critical areas ordinances, or about this case, contact Erik Stockdale, supervisor of Ecology's northwest region wetland staff.

Air Time: Okanogan County burn ban expires

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

A Stage 1 burn ban in Okanogan County expires at 10 a.m. today (Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012) as scheduled.

During a Stage 1 ban, use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning are prohibited.

These activities may resume after the burn ban expires. However, Ecology urges people to think twice before burning because smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices easily builds up at this time of year, when stagnant air conditions can trap smoke close to the ground.

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. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

By limiting burning as much as possible, residents of affected areas can help prevent air quality from deteriorating to the point that burn bans are needed. And by following restrictions when burn bans are called, they can help limit the time period the bans are in effect.

NOAA has best information about Japanese tsunami debris

By Curt Hart, communications manager, Shorelands & Environmental Assistance Program

The tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 washed much of what was in the inundation zone into the Pacific Ocean as it receded from land.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heavier materials sank closer to shore while buoyant materials went on to make up debris fields in the waters surrounding Japan.

NOAA assessing debris, potential impactsNOAA is taking the lead on efforts to collect data, assess debris and possible impacts based on sound science, and protect our natural resources and coasts. The agency has created a comprehensive website to answer questions about the Japanese tsunami debris.

According to NOAA, the debris fields seen in the ocean off the Japanese coast right after the tsunami are no longer visible. Winds and ocean currents have scattered items in the Pacific Ocean.

Nancy Wallace, director of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, has posted a blog about the facts and misconceptions surrounding the tsunami debris issue.


Where, when beach impacts still uncertain

NOAA scientists are using models designed to help predict when and where the debris may show up on the West Coast – including Washington. Debris is expected here in early 2013. There’s a lot of uncertainty about:



  • What’s still floating in the ocean.


  • Where it’s located.


  • Where it will go.


  • When it will arrive.

Radioactive threats extremely slim

However, NOAA has concluded that any debris is extremely unlikely to be radioactive because:


  • The tsunami debris was washed out to sea well before any leak occurred at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

  • The debris was generated over hundreds of miles along the Japanese coast while radioactive water leaked from just one place.

Washington agencies working with NOAA, other partners

In Washington, several state agencies including the departments of Ecology, Health, Military-Emergency Management Division, Natural Resources, and Washington State Parks, have a response role should Japanese tsunami debris wash up on our coast.

We are working closely with NOAA to assess and evaluate potential tsunami debris impacts to:


  • Our coastal communities.

  • The public’s health.

  • Our beaches, lands and environment.
This effort includes working closely with our local and tribal government partners to help ensure that any needed response is well coordinated.


Helping our coastal communities

Since January, NOAA and several state agencies have presented information and answered questions at eight public meetings along our coastal communities and tribal centers.

We are preparing a response plan so that when and if the debris arrives in early 2013 our communities will have ready access to questions about the debris.


Report tsunami debris to NOAA

In the meantime, if you think you’ve found any Japanese tsunami debris, report it to NOAA at disasterdebris@NOAA.com.


Report oil spills and hazardous materials to state and federal officials

As always, immediately notify the proper state and federal authorities if you spot an oil spill or find containers with possible harmful chemicals inside. Be safe. Don’t hesitate to call 1-800-OILS-911 and 1-800-424-8802.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Air Time: Burn ban starts in Okanogan County

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Photo source: WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)A burn ban starts at 4 p.m. today (Friday, Feb. 10, 2012) in Okanogan County.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn ban for Okanogan County will continue until at least 10 a.m. Tuesday (Feb. 14), when it could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 ban applies to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Ecology’s burn bans do not apply on tribal reservations, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. 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. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices – including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts – is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat. Uncertified units typically were built before 1990 and lack a certification label on the back of the unit.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.

Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Air Time: Burn bans expire in 5 Eastern WA counties

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Stevens Co. Photo source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
urn bans will expire at 10 a.m. today (Monday, Feb. 6, 2012) in five Eastern Washington counties because air quality has improved.

The bans will be lifted in Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Okanogan, and Stevens counties.

During a Stage 1 ban, use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and all outdoor burning are prohibited.

These activities may resume after the burn ban expires. However, Ecology urges people to think twice before burning because smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices easily builds up at this time of year, when stagnant air conditions can trap smoke close to the ground.

In fact, forecasters believe another high pressure system may build later this week, which could spur more burn bans.

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. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

By limiting burning as much as possible, residents of affected areas can help prevent air quality from deteriorating to the point that burn bans are needed. And by following restrictions when burn bans are called, they can help limit the time period the bans are in effect.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Air Time: More burn bans start Friday

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

Photo source: WA Dept. of HealthBurn bans start at 4 p.m. Friday (Feb. 3, 2012) in Ferry, Okanogan and Stevens counties, where air quality is expected to worsen this week.

Ecology’s Stage 1 burn bans for Ferry, Okanogan and Stevens counties will continue until at least 10 a.m. Monday (Feb. 6), when they could be called off or extended. The Stage 1 bans apply to unnecessary use of uncertified wood-burning devices (including wood stoves, inserts and fireplaces) and to all outdoor burning.

Stage 1 burn bans remain in effect in Chelan and Douglas counties until at least 10 a.m. Monday (Feb. 6).

Smoke from outdoor burning and wood-burning devices builds up where cold air is trapped near the ground. 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. Children, people with asthma and respiratory illnesses, and adults older than 65 are most at risk.

Under a Stage 1 ban:
  • Use of uncertified wood-burning devices – including fireplaces, wood stoves and inserts – is prohibited unless they are a home’s only source of heat. Uncertified units typically were built before 1990 and lack a certification label on the back of the unit.

  • All outdoor burning – including residential, agricultural and forest burning – is prohibited.

  • Use of certified wood-burning devices and pellet stoves is allowed. Ecology recommends burning hot fires using only clean, dry wood.

  • No excessive smoke is allowed from any wood-burning device beyond a 20-minute start-up.
Burn ban violators are subject to civil penalties. You can report burn ban violators by calling Ecology’s smoke complaint hotline (1-866-211-6284).

A 2009 Ecology analysis estimates that fine particles contribute to about 1,100 deaths and about $190 million in health-care costs each year in Washington. For burn ban updates:

Eyes Over Puget Sound - Aerial photos from Jan. 30, 2012

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, Environmental Assessment Program

Eyes Over Puget SoundThe Department of Ecology's Marine Monitoring Unit conducts a variety of marine observations, including monthly sampling at 40 core monitoring stations. We use a floatplane to cover our widely distributed station network. We take photos of Puget Sound water conditions during a routine transit flight between the Kenmore base and Olympia.

“Eyes Over Puget Sound” is the result, and an example of how we are optimizing our resources to monitor Puget Sound. “Eyes Over Puget Sound” combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, en route ferry data between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments.

Surface conditions from January 30, 2012 are now available online at:
http://ecy.wa.gov/programs/eap/mar_wat/eops/

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