Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cleaning Up: Cleanup transforms communities

Visitors enjoy the sunshine at a former Anacortes cleanup site.
Cleaning up pollution remakes our environment and reshapes communities in Washington.

Cleanup improves quality of life. It restores the environment, protects human health, puts people to work, and boosts the economy.

Want a good example? Take a look at the cleanup at the former Scott Paper mill in Anacortes.

The former Scott Paper mill location was identified as a key cleanup site under the Puget Sound Initiative in and around Fidalgo and Padilla bays. The bays have been damaged by historical industrial activities -- cleaning up and protecting these waterways and others is vital to restoring and protecting the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Production meant pollution

The Scott Paper pulp-and-paper mill in Anacortes in full operation.
The mill was a dominant part of manufacturing operations along the Fidalgo Bay shoreline for roughly a century. The mill began as a sawmill, then started operating as a pulp mill to produce paper goods.

Operations shut down in 1978. After that, parts of the site were used for various industrial purposes, including as a log yard, a staging area for oil-field equipment, and an assembly area for modular homes. 

Old lumber littered the shoreline.
All of those activities took their toll on the local environment.

Wood waste suffocated in-water creatures in sediments and littered the shoreline. Industrial chemicals, wood and various pollutants contaminated the soil and sediments.

Over the years, portions of the site were cleaned up. The northern portion of the site, owned by the Port of Anacortes, became a home to commercial and educational buildings.

The site is now a hub for recreational, commercial and educational activities.
They include the Northwest Educational Service District 189 center, the Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology, and a Northwest Career and Technical Academy campus.

From cleanup to community gem

Wood waste and contaminants were unearthed during cleanup.
The Port of Anacortes, working with Ecology, took on the final cleanup stage in 2009. The work targeted wood waste and contamination along the shoreline and the adjacent uplands.

The project lasted about two years. It was no small task to remove the mill's legacy of pollution -- the Scott Paper cleanup remains the largest such effort (in terms of size and cost) tackled under the Puget Sound Initiative.

Kayakers and a family use the restored beach on a recent day.
This ECOconnect post in May 2011 describes the celebration held at the expanded and upgraded Seafarers' Memorial Park at the mill site.

Now, five years later after cleanup work finished, the former Scott Paper site is in constant use for community gatherings, live music performances, kayaking, boating, and other activities. Residents and visitors stroll the esplanade where old wood lay abandoned.

It's a living, thriving example of how cleanup benefits our communities as well as our environment.

By Seth Preston, Toxics Cleanup Program communications manager

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