Monday, April 30, 2012

Air Time: Focus is on healthy air

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Air Quality Program

This is national Air Quality Awareness Week (April 30-May 6, 2012), which highlights efforts to improve and protect the air we all breathe.

Air quality affects our health, as well as the health of our families and neighbors. It also impacts the health of the environment and the overall quality of life in our communities.

This Ecology news release talks more about the importance of air quality and details how all of us can take individual actions to improve the air.

And you can watch this Ecology video, which details one of the biggest, most common threats to air quality and health in Washington – fine particle pollution.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Around the Sound: Water permit public meeting in Port Angeles April 30th

By Hannah Aoyagi, Public Involvement Coordinator, Toxics Cleanup Program

We are going to be in Port Angeles Monday to talk about a draft water quality permit for the City of Port Angeles combined sewer overflow (CSO) project.  Join us...

Monday, April 30th
6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Commissioners’ Boardroom
Clallam County Courthouse
223 East 4th Street, Port Angeles

Permit Comment Period April 16 - May 16, 2012
The city has applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit so that it can build a pipeline for its CSO project. About half of the two-mile CSO project pipeline will be through the Rayonier Mill cleanup site. Possible soil contamination along the pipeline route means the city has to be extra careful about any stormwater coming out of that area.

This map shows where the CSO pipeline will run.

What does the permit require?
The proposed NPDES permit requires the city to use measures to prevent dirty water reaching Port Angeles harbor.  On the Rayonier property, the city must collect stormwater and groundwater from pipeline trenches.  This water must then be pre-treated and sent to the wastewater treatment plant.

More about the meeting...
We will have a presentation at 6:45 p.m.
  • Greg Zentner (Water Quality Program) will give a brief overview of the CSO project.
  • Mohsen Kourehdar (Toxics Cleanup Program) will go into the details of the NPDES permit.

Please see our website for more information about the comment period, the NPDES permit, and the permit fact sheet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eyes Over Puget Sound - Aerial photos from April 23, 2012

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, Environmental Assessment Program

Algae blooms and impressive surface accumulations are showing up now in Puget Sound. See them for yourself in the latest installment of the Department of Ecology’s “Eyes Over Puget Sound.” Surface conditions from April 23, 2012, are now available online at:

The pdf document is 5 MB, upload times may vary. The pdf document has clickable navigation links.

Ecology's Marine Monitoring Unit conducts a variety of marine observations, including monthly sampling at 40 core monitoring stations. We use a floatplane to efficiently cover our widely distributed station network. We take these 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.

Find out more about marine algae blooms on Ecology's website. Sometimes algae blooms can look like spilled paint, oil or sewage. Find out more about how to report an environmental problem.

Sign up here to receive email notifications about the latest “Eyes Over Puget Sound.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

We're Looking for a Few (well, actually, a whole "lotta") Good Photos

by Tim Hill, Office of the Columbia River

Do you have photos depicting Eastern Washington water use at home, at work, on the farm, or at your favorite fishing spot? Please consider submitting them to Ecology's new Flickr photo pool, "Water for People, Food, and Fish."

Good examples might include a person using water around the house; xeriscaping; efficient irrigation of crops, and photos of fish (especially, salmon, steelhead, and bull trout) in their natural environment (streams, rivers, and lakes located in Eastern Washington.)

Please include a description and the location where your photo was taken. In addition to showing off your mad skilz* on Flickr, we'll use your photos in publications, videos, on the web and in other electronic media, providing you with the proper credit.

*Is it still hip to say that, or am I embarrassing my grandson, again?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Conversations about Washington's future — helping Washington respond to the growing threat of ocean acidification

By Ted Sturdevant, Ecology Director

In the past several years, Washington's shellfish producers have seen significant increases in oyster larvae deaths. Some species aren't able to build their shells. Others species survive long enough to form shells, but they never reach market size.

What is going on?

A mounting body of evidence suggests that the ocean's chemistry is changing, due to increased carbon dioxide from emissions, polluted land runoff and other sources.

The ocean absorbs about one-third of the carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere. As this happens, a chemical reaction takes place that lowers the pH of the water and makes it more acidic. Acids tend to dissolve calcium compounds. And because of that, ocean acidification interferes with the ability of certain organisms - like Pacific oysters - to build their shells.

Washington's shellfish industry employs thousands of people and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy - so this is an economic as well as an environmental threat.

There is an even larger concern. Some of the ocean's smallest creatures that use some form of calcium for their shells are essential links in the food chain. Directly or indirectly, they supply food for larger species such as salmon, halibut, cod and whales.

While the growing acidity of our oceans is a worldwide problem, Washington is particularly vulnerable due to certain factors. For example, the winds off of our coast tend to displace the surface water and bring deeper, colder, more carbon rich - and therefore more acidic - water up from the depths. Some of our human activities, such as overuse of fertilizer, failing septic systems and polluted runoff from the land, contribute to the problem.

A blue ribbon panel - the first of its kind in the nation - has been formed as part of the Governor's Washington Shellfish Initiative. By October 1, 2012, it will make recommendations to the Governor and to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on what Washington can do to reduce the impacts of ocean acidification on Washington's shellfish industry and other marine resources.

In my latest "Conversations on Washington's Future" message, I share what I and other members of the panel learned about the threat of ocean acidification, and where we will focus our energies over the next six months.

You can follow the progress of the panel at our web site: Ocean Acidification — Science & Actions in Washington State.

See more Conversations on Washington's Future.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ecology Ponders Hanford Tank Farm Closure

Jeff Lyon, Tank Systems, Operations, and Closure Project Manager
By Jeff Lyon, Nuclear Waste Program
I have some questions as Ecology’s Tank Systems, Operations, and Closure Project Manager:
  • How long should we wait to close the 149 single-shell tanks (SSTs) at Hanford?
  • What are the risks to humans and the environment if we wait?
  • If we wait for more money or better cleanup technologies (we may never get either), what should we do about the current soil contamination?
  • What will it take to make our decision more certain?
The Draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement (TC & WM EIS) shows that early soil cleanup will help reduce groundwater impacts. About 72 square miles of groundwater under Hanford are contaminated above drinking water standards now. But even if we start today, it will take time to see benefits to groundwater from soil cleanup. But as we wait for action, the conditions worsen.
Part of the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) is to prioritize Hanford cleanup, and the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) schedules that work. One of the TPA milestones is to close all SSTs by 2043. The first of seven waste management areas (WMAs), WMA-C, is scheduled to close by 2019. The schedule requires the remaining six WMAs to be finished in the following 24 years (about one every 4 years). We still have a very long way to go, which makes a good case for finishing WMA-C as soon as we can.
I’m reminded of my high school shop teacher’s motto: You’re not done with your work until you clean up your mess.

All I need to know I learned in shop class

I came onto the tank farms project when USDOE was still performing interim stabilization of SSTs. Interim stabilization meant pumping out all the liquids to stop potential leaks, and that work is mostly done. However, dangerous chemical and radioactive sludge and solids still remain in the tanks.
Hanford tank farm workers use Geiger counters to measure radiation.
Hanford tank farm workers use Geiger counters to measure radiation.
As a result of past interim stabilization efforts, hose-in-hose transfer lines were abandoned in many of the tank farms. They were all flushed with fresh water but unusable. They were past their service life, in the way of retrieval work, and had created tripping hazards.
Then, while retrieving waste from a tank, a gasket in a hose-in-hose transfer line failed, which led to an investigation and enforcement actions. After this, the agencies realized that leaving the lines lying around was not good housekeeping, deciding they must all be removed and properly disposed.
At about the same time, the double-shell tank upgrades were moving forward. When contractors opened old valve boxes, again hoses from transfers performed decades ago remained. Upgrades were more difficult because of the mess left behind.
With those experiences in mind, I don’t want to leave an important step in tank closure half done. We need to finish WMA-C.
We have done a lot of important work, including soil studies and closure planning. But work slowdowns and budget cuts continue to worry me. The TC & WM EIS confirms that the contamination is serious and that the groundwater problems we already face will worsen the longer we wait.
So our advice to USDOE includes my shop teacher’s motto:
Don’t wait! Meet the scheduled deadlines for closing WMA-C. You’re not done until you finish cleaning up!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Washington, Oregon hook up on Hanford presentations at Oregon State

Dieter Bohrmann, Communications ConsultantBy Dieter Bohrmann, Communications Consultant, Nuclear Waste Program

John Price and I ventured down to Oregon State University (OSU) on February 23 to talk about Hanford with students and faculty, as well as other Corvallis residents. We were joined on the visit by Ken Niles from the Oregon Department of Energy, and Max Power, chair of the Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board.

Our first presentation was with students in OSU’s Master’s in Public Policy program. Hanford has many policy issues to consider, such as budget decisions, risk issues, tribal obligations, and natural resource damage assessments. For many of the students, this was their first introduction to Hanford, and they had a lot of good questions.

Ecology's John Price talks about Hanford.
Ecology's John Price talks about Hanford.
Our second presentation was sponsored by the university’s Student Sustainability Initiative. The evening event drew about 50 people to Gilfillan Auditorium on campus. We had a good mix of Hanford newcomers and others who obviously knew something about the history and the cleanup efforts.

Overall, people appreciated the opportunity to talk about Hanford issues and get the perspectives of both states involved in the cleanup. The groups also enjoyed the animated video, What’s in Hanford’s Backyard, that was shown during both presentations. The video was created by students at Washington State University Tri-Cities through a project created by Ecology. One student also blogged about our visit.

Corvallis hasn’t traditionally been visited frequently by the agencies involved in Hanford cleanup. But there was genuine interest from both students and residents in what’s happening at the Site, and it’s a relationship we believe we can build on.

For more photos from Ecology's visit to OSU, see the album on our Hanford Education & Outreach Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fecal Matters: Blakely Harbor Park Beach on Bainbridge Island is Closed

BEACH Program Update

Yesterday, Kitsap County Public Health closed the beach at Blakely Harbor Park on Bainbridge Island. The closure is due to a nearby sewage spill.

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

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spill Log: Weekend spills prompt Olympic Pipe Line to shut down fuel line

By Curt Hart, Communications Manager, Spills Program

The Olympic Pipe Line Co shut down its 400-mile interstate liquid fuel pipeline system twice this past weekend after two separate fuel spills occurred at the company’s Mount Vernon control station.

As we watch the oil industry change the way and type of oil that’s being moved around the nation – a good example is the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project — it’s good to know Olympic Pipe Line did the right thing by shutting down their pipeline until the causes of the small spills could be better understood.

The Olympic pipeline is the main provider for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels in Western Washington and Portland. This means disruptions are a pretty serious matter.

Saturday morning spill

Olympic Pipe Line reported the first incident to state and federal authorities shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday March 31.

The company knew something had happened because a sensor designed to detect petroleum hydrocarbons in the station’s stormwater sump system automatically shut the station down.

Further investigation revealed the spill occurred after a testing port valve cracked and failed on the company’s 20-inch pipeline inspection gauge – or “pig” – launcher at the Mount Vernon station.

As a result, an estimated 84 gallons of diesel fuel sprayed out but was captured inside the station’s concrete fuel containment area.

The company hired a contractor to clean up the spill. They replaced the damaged valve and put the pipeline back in service about 12 hours later.

Pipeline ‘pigs’

Companies install pipeline pigging systems to do all sorts of things inside a line without stopping the flow of the product in a pipeline.

Pigs can be used to clean the insides of a pipeline or measure pipe thickness and corrosion along the pipeline.

Since the Olympic pipeline transports about 4.4 billion gallons of gasoline, diesel and jet fuels annually in the same line, pigs are used to separate these different petroleum products.

The pig launcher is where these pigs are put into the pipeline. The launcher then is closed and the pressure inside the line is used to push it along down the pipe.

Sunday morning spill

At about 2 a.m. Sunday April 1, Ecology received a report that the same 20-inch pig launcher at the Mount Vernon station ran into another problem which shut the Olympic pipeline down again.

This time, a pressure gauge on the launcher broke and about 30 gallons of diesel fuel was released inside a pipe which ran back into the station’s sump system.

The sensor did its work again, automatically shutting down the station.

Olympic Pipe Line took the pig launcher out of service and put the pipeline back in service Sunday afternoon.

Uncommon occurrence merits investigation

It is uncommon for a pipeline company to have two fuel spills at the same location in such a short period of time.

And it’s even less common for Olympic Pipe Line to shut down their pipeline along the company’s 300-mile corridor from Blaine to Portland twice over a single weekend.

Ecology closely regulates Olympic Pipe Line. The company is required to maintain a robust oil spill contingency plan to ensure the firm can mount a quick and effective response to any oil spill.

These plans are continually tested and updated. We are pleased the company closely followed its plan:
  • Olympic promptly reported the spills to Ecology.

  • Their safety systems worked, keeping a major spill from occurring.

  • The spilled oil stayed onsite at the Mount Vernon station; nothing reached the environment.

We will work with Olympic as the company evaluates the out-of-service pig launcher

More about Olympic Pipe Line

The Olympic pipeline is the primary source of fuel for Seattle’s Harbor Island, Sea-Tac Airport, Olympia, Vancouver, and Portland.

Fuels originate from four of the five petroleum refineries in Washington:

The Olympic Pipeline crosses either under or over most river systems that drain to Puget Sound and Western Washington from the Cascade Mountains.

Other regulated Washington fuel pipeline companies

Besides the Olympic pipeline, Ecology also regulates:

Getting to zero spills

Our goal is zero oil spills and Ecology works closely with all our regulated companies to prevent spills from occurring in the first place.

When spills do happen, the contingency plans required by Ecology help us ensure that prompt notification is followed by a rapid, aggressive, and well coordinated response.

It’s our policy to respond to and investigate every significant spill from regulated pipelines.

By doing so, we can prevent future spills and incorporate the lessons learned from incidents that do happen back into the company’s spill contingency plan to improve all future responses.

For more information, see Ecology's Spills Program.

Monday, April 2, 2012

E-Cycle Washington – the free, convenient and responsible way to e-cycle

by Miles Kuntz, E-Cycle Washington, Ecology Waste 2 Resources Program

E-Cycle Washington may sound like a program for bike riders, but it’s not. In fact, it’s for everyone. E-Cycle Washington is a free electronics recycling program overseen by the Department of Ecology. Electronics manufacturers fund the program; no state tax dollars are used. Ecology oversees E-Cycle Washington to ensure that electronics are recycled responsibly and safely.

Under this program, the following can recycle electronic products at no charge:
  • Individuals
  • Households
  • Small businesses
  • Schools and school districts
  • Small governments
  • Charities
  • Special purpose districts

(For details on how those on the above list are defined, go to this link: Who can recycle with E-Cycle Washington?)

To find a free E-Cycle Washington drop-off site in your area (there are more than 290 statewide), go to Be sure to look for businesses on the list that feature E-Cycle Washington’s green plug logo next to their name. They’re the only ones registered with the program.

Consumers can recycle certain electronics for free through other means, but be wary. Free recycling does not always mean responsible recycling. It’s important to recycle responsibly because electronics contain toxic materials that can pollute soil, water and air if mishandled.

E-Cycle Washington currently accepts the following products:
  • Televisions
  • Computers
  • Computer monitors
  • Portable or laptop computers, including “tablet computers”
  • e-readers (also called e-book readers)

At this time, computer peripherals such as keyboards, mice and printers are not accepted by the program.

E-Cycle Washington has been recycling electronics for more than three years now. To date, more than 126 million pounds have been collected through our statewide network of collection sites. Each year’s total has surpassed the previous one.

Education and promotion are keys to the success of any recycling program, even a free one. Some of the efforts so far to promote E-Cycle Washington include:
  • Most retailers provide e-cycling information on the receipt when you buy a computer, monitor, TV or e-reader.
  • Radio ads sponsored by the manufacturers have blanketed the state the past two years.
  • A number of public utilities have included inserts in their monthly bills.
  • Local governments promote the program.
  • Newspapers have reported on the program, including announcing the achievement of the 100-million-pound collection mark last summer.

So now you know what to do with your unwanted or outdated electronics! E-Cycle is free and convenient. And it’s important for the environment. Electronic products contain toxics like lead and mercury, as well as valuable resources like copper and other metals that don’t belong in our landfills.

Look for the E-Cycle Washington logo and recycle!