Monday, September 9, 2019

Cleaning up: Bellingham community active in Waterfront cleanup outreach

View from the air looking toward a waterfront and city and a snow-capped mountain in the distance.t
Cleaning up Central Waterfront site is transforming Bellingham Bay
Stroll along the Bellingham waterfront today and you’ll see changes – a new public park with an award-winning restored beach, a restored Granary Building, and a new downtown city block complete with new roads, sidewalks, and bike paths.

All of these changes were made possible by first addressing contamination from a history of industrial activity. 

Contamination cleanup work continues at multiple sites along the Bellingham waterfront, which will foster more changes over the coming years. One of those sites is the Central Waterfront site.

An aerial view of Central Waterfront site
Center of it all
The Central Waterfront site is located on the waterfront between two waterways. Four other Ecology cleanup sites are in the area: two in-water sediment sites (Whatcom Waterway and I & J Waterway) and two upland sites (Georgia-Pacific West and the Holly Street Landfill).

“Win-Win” outreach partnerships
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities hosted a walking tour of the Central Waterfront site on July 10. They shared information about cleanup activities and connected the community with agency staff managing the cleanup efforts. On this rainy, overcast July weekday, about 40 curious folks joined RE Sources, Ecology, the Port of Bellingham, and City of Bellingham as we all toured the site. We saw the working waterfront in action, learned of previous cleanup work, and discussed planned cleanup work.

We award Public Participation Grants to individuals and nonprofit organizations like RE Sources who do outreach about contaminated sites. They received a grant starting July 1 and hit the ground running just days later with a Central Waterfront site tour. Opportunities like this enable the community to see a cleanup site in person while having conversations with the people managing a cleanup. It’s a “win-win”  for us, other agencies and organizations, and most importantly for the community.

Adults and children gathered outside listening to someone talk.
Our Public Participation Grants allow communities groups to do outreach,
like providing tours of cleanup sites on Bellingham Bay.
Future generations
We were lucky to have many youth join in the tour conversation. It served as a perfect reminder of why we do such cleanups, for current AND future generations.

Our youngest tour members innocently asked how they could help clean up the site while we walked. A great reminder to keep an eye out for litter while we work to address the chemical contamination.

A middle school group studying environmental and social justice in their summer program also attended the tour and learned how cleanups involve an entire community.

Public participation
Washington’s environmental cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Action (MTCA), began as a public-initiated law and it turns 30 this year. Many steps of the MTCA cleanup process involve public participation. Your comments help inform Ecology’s management decisions.

Ecology invites you to review and comment on a draft Cleanup Action Plan and associated documents for the Central Waterfront site. The plan calls for a combination of removing and capping contaminated soil, monitoring conditions, and restricting uses.

During our first 30-day comment period, we received several requests for a public meeting, so we’ve scheduled a meeting for 6-8 p.m. on September 18 at  Bellingham Technology Development Center, 1000 F St., Bellingham. See this map for directions. 

You can submit comments online during our second 30-day comment period from September 16 – October 15, 2019.

Cleanup site information

By Ian Fawley, Community Outreach and Environmental Education Specialist, Toxics Cleanup Program

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