Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Boots on the Ground: Puget SoundCorps to remove creosote at Kitsap beaches

By Stephanie Jackson, WCC Project Coordinator, and Jasmine Davis, WCC Outreach Assistant, Ecology Washington Conservation Corps

Member Alex Stowe stages creosote debris for airlift, 2011

Member Shawn Montgomery removes marine

Puget SoundCorps crew clearing a derelict dock at Maury Island, 2012
Through a partnership between the Washington departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ecology (Ecology), Washington Conservation Corps’ (WCC) Puget SoundCorps crews, have been cleaning up Puget Sound beaches since 2011.

The most recent round of beach cleanup focuses on removing toxic creosote through a partnership with Kitsap County Parks and Recreation. This project started on April 29 and will continue through May 3, 2013.

WCC’s Puget SoundCorps provides practical work experience for young adults and recently returning military veterans through a partnership with Ecology, DNR, State Parks and the state Department of Veterans Affairs. The crews cleaning up Washington's beaches consist of both veteran and non-veteran members. In exchange for their efforts, members earn the state minimum wage and an education award (scholarship) through AmeriCorps.

SoundCorps removing toxic threats

SoundCorps crews work with DNR staff to identify and remove creosote treated pilings, old docks, and other debris that have washed ashore. Creosote is a toxic compound that includes many chemicals, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which are harmful to marine life.

PAHs were identified as a toxic chemical of concern in Ecology’s Puget Sound Toxics Assessment. The study found that when PAHs leach into the bottom sediments of Puget Sound, the pollutant can cause tumors in marine flatfish. PAHs from oil and fuel spills in water also can cause heart defects in the developing embryos of herring and other fish species.

Getting contaminated debris ready for airlift

Puget SoundCorps crews have grown adept at creosote removal through their efforts in other parts of Washington. During some projects, crews work alongside helicopter pilots for removal of larger pieces, allowing them to practice rigging techniques learned within the WCC program. The crew members enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the satisfaction of putting their training to use while helping the environment. In January 2013, the SoundCorps crew led by supervisor, Darrell Borden, spent a week working along the Dungeness Spit in Sequim. In that short time, they removed 13 tons of creosote material from the beach preventing future pollution from leaching into the environment.

Puget SoundCorps crews perform other beach cleanup including surveys, marine debris removal, and litter removal. Crews also report derelict ships, if found. By performing beach cleanup, crews feel a part of the big picture and consider their work to be an important contribution and an exciting adventure.

Learn more about the Washington Conservation Corps.

No comments: