Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Boots on the Ground: Salmon carcasses make a splash in Chiwawa River

This is my first year as an AmeriCorps member with the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC). I serve on a “spike crew” – or travel assignment crew –  based out of Wenatchee.

WCC AmeriCorps member Kevin Wooldridge*
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and recently lived in New York City. I moved back to Washington this summer to be closer to family. I enjoy working outdoors and even once operated a smolt trap, so I knew WCC would be a good fit. Now, I’m just one month into the position but I believe the networking opportunities and hands-on experiences with our state, federal, and non-profit partners will help me decide if I want to pursue a career in the environmental field.

Day one: meeting my new crew

I met my fellow AmeriCorps members in Wenatchee on our first day of service, and we prepared for our first project on the Chiwawa River. Kelly Gilchrist, my crew supervisor,  and fellow crew members Khalil English, Rilea Dills, Chance Smith, and Bailey Haller are all awesome people with unique personalities. I look forward to serving alongside them. Since our first project was a spike, WCC provides food and lodging. So we got to stop along the way to purchase groceries. Then we headed out to meet the team from Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (CFEG), our partner organization for our first project.

Project orientation: Chiwawa River gets a nutrient boost

Our task during the first half of October was adding marine-derived nutrients into the Chiwawa River. This meant tossing in thousands of pounds of salmon carcasses compressed into pellets (also called analogs)! As the analogs decompose, they return nutrients to the river. As insects move in to eat the pellets, they in turn become an excellent food source for juvenile salmon. Before we started unloading bags of stinky salmon pellets from a trailer into several truck beds, CFEG Executive Director Jason Lundgren gave us a brief introduction into what we would be doing and why. As we drove to the five-mile reach of the upper Chiwawa River where we would be applying the salmon analogs, I was impressed by the breathtaking mountains, crisp air, and fall colors. I had never been to the area before and even in the cold and rain it was easy to get distracted by all the sheer beauty that surrounded us.

“For the fish!” we all chimed in before hauling the 50-pound pound salmon pellet bags through a mile-long obstacle course of thick brush and fallen trees to access the riverside. We made trip after trip, stacking bags near the river until the trucks were empty. We then donned waders and made our way to different spots in the river, being careful to avoid areas with salmon egg nests – or redds. Some of the treatment spots required we wade long distances up or downstream, which was tiring but so much fun! The last step was cutting open the bags and pouring the nutrients evenly into the Chiwawa.

CCFEG and WCC carry heavy bags of salmon analogs through the Chiwawa River before dumping them in.*

Prioritizing safety on the daily

Although we did not know exactly what to expect on our first project, we knew what precautions to take along the way. It was important to wear enough layers and have extra socks handy on rainy, cold days to keep warm. Our strenuous activities also meant it was crucial to drink enough water and consume plenty of calories. To prevent accidents, we also had to be extremely careful how we placed our feet in the river. Although these seem like basic safety measures, being mindful of them was important to successfully complete the project.

By the second week, we were experts in hauling those stinky bags around. We learned the best way to carry them, cut them open, and effectively dump the pellets in the water. We knew all the trails to the river by heart and were prepared to face any weather. We dispersed a total of 42,000 pounds of salmon analogs into the Chiwawa River!  Because we were ahead of schedule, some of us got the opportunity to help Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with electrofishing, a fun learning experience. Electrofishing is a common technique used to sample fish populations. Biologists deliver an electrical charge into a body of water to temporarily stun and collect the fish, record data, then release the unharmed fish back into the water.

L to R: Kelly Gilchrist, Bailey Haller, Kevin Wooldridge,
Rilea Dills, Chance Smith (not pictured Khalil English).*

Inspiration and bonding

I was inspired by CFEG staff members’ passion, drive, and ability to face adversity head on every day. The life of an environmentalist can be uncertain, and it is admirable these people are doing all they can to help save local wildlife. Everyone seemed to love the work, and their passion was contagious. The feeling of being part of something larger than myself kept me going when the cold or fatigue hit. I want to give a huge “thank you” to CFEG for their hard work, and making our first project experience memorable.

This project was so much more than just dumping pellets into the river. I got the opportunity to spend quality time with my fellow AmeriCorps members! Making communal dinners, playing cards and video games, and sharing stories next to the warm fireplace after a long day outdoors made everything so much better. Being able to share the experience together was one of the best parts of the Chiwawa River Nutrient Enhancement Project.

By Kevin Wooldridge, WCC AmeriCorps member, Wenatchee Spike Crew 
*Photos contributed by Kelly Gilchrist (1, 3) and Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (2).

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Updating fresh water rules to protect salmon spawning

Ecology is starting conversations about rule changes to help salmon recovery

many bright red blobs, which are salmon, in a clear river
Image by NOAA Fisheries
All across the state, people and organizations are asking what they can do to help salmon and orca. There are simple, every day actions we can all take to prevent water pollution, like limiting the amount of chemicals we use on our lawns, as they can be washed into streams and rivers. At Ecology, we are taking a wide variety of actions to better protect and restore these iconic species, including grants for community projects, reducing toxic chemicals from getting into our water, providing scientific support, and taking regulatory actions.

Salmon Spawning and Water Quality

Salmon play a critical role in our fresh and marine water ecosystems. Unfortunately, salmon populations have been declining in our state for more than a decade. In Washington, 15 distinct populations of salmon and steelhead are listed as either threatened or endangered, and according to the most recent State of Salmon report, eight of those populations are either getting worse or not showing signs of recovery.  

To support salmon recovery, we are considering making changes to the state’s fresh water standards. These changes could help improve the physical habitat and water quality for our rivers and streams to benefit all salmonids; including trout such as cutthroat, redband, bull, brown, rainbow, and brook. Specifically, we want to ensure salmon nests (called redds) have enough oxygen to support incubating eggs and newly hatched young. We also want to better protect these nests from the effects of too much fine sediment in the water.

“Salmon need a healthy environment to spawn and thrive. If we want more salmon in our rivers, we need to continue to help improve their environment,” said Heather Bartlett, Ecology’s Water Quality Program Manager. “The rule changes we are considering would help improve the spawning habitat for salmon across the state and compliment all of the great work being done to rebuild and protect salmon habitat.”


Bright orange eggs with small translucent fish sticking their heads out.
Larval salmon, called alevin, stay protected between the stream
gravel until they absorb their yolk sack and emerge as young fish.
Image by
Salmonid eggs incubate in the gravel of fresh water streams and need enough oxygen to properly grow into larvae and emerge from the gravel. In regulatory terms, we refer to the oxygen in the water as Dissolved Oxygen and have a water quality criteria for how much oxygen needs to be in the water for aquatic species to be healthy.

We are considering adding an additional measure to the existing criteria to help ensure habitat conditions in gravel are ideal for salmon spawning. We want to make sure our standards provide the necessary conditions for growth, survival, and reproduction. Improved standards would help us better identify waters throughout the state that have oxygen issues that could be affecting salmon spawning.

There are a number of reasons why a water body could have low dissolved oxygen, including warm water temperatures and excess nutrients.

Salmon eggs and larvae need oxygen to breathe. A line drawing of a fish in a river with a gravel bottom. Arrows showing water flows through gravel and carries oxygen to group of small red eggs (called a redd). Arrows showing dissolved oxygen moves between the water column and the gravel bed. Redds often have lower dissolved oxygen than the water column. line drawing showing eggs outlined between gravel and baby fish.

Fine Sediments

A pink salmon excavates a loose gravel area to create
a nest (called a redd). She lays her eggs in and covers them up.
We are also considering the addition of new water quality criteria to limit the impact of fine sediment on salmon spawning gravel beds. Currently, the Water Quality Standards provide protection for spawning habitat but do not specifically address fine sediments.

Fine sediments are an issue for salmon nests because sediments can settle on the nests and block the flow of water through the gravel, depriving eggs and larvae of the oxygen they need.

In addition, adding fine sediment criteria is consistent with our agreement in the 2018 U.S. District Court Stipulated Order of Dismissal between Northwest Environmental Advocates, EPA, and Ecology.  In the agreement, we committed to completing draft rule language by Oct. 18, 2021.

Fine sediment is the result of soil erosion, which can happen for a wide variety of reasons, including development or construction, agricultural practices, and forestry. There are generally best management practices in place for these industries and activities to mitigate erosion and sediment pollution.
Fine sediment is not suitable spawning habitat. Line drawing of fish in river with gravel bed. Shows fine sediment covering the redd. Fine sediment blocks the flow of water and oxygen.  Less oxygen reduces hatching success.

Next Steps

This is the development phase of the rule, which means we have not yet drafted a proposed rule. Over the next few months, we will meet with tribes, stakeholders, and government agencies about the potential rulemaking, to seek their ideas on solutions, alternative approaches, and concerns.

We plan to propose rule language for comment in fall 2020. At that time, we will host workshops and public hearings. After evaluating the feedback we receive, we will make decisions on changes to the water quality standards for dissolved oxygen and fine sediments in fresh water.

To learn more about the rulemaking, visit our rulemaking webpage.

By Stacy Galleher and Marla Koberstein

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Conditions still favorable for fish growth

New Eyes Over Puget Sound report now available
Once a month, we take high-resolution photos of Puget Sound water conditions, using seaplane to travel between our long-term monitoring stations. We publish these, along with monitoring station data, in the Eyes Over Puget Sound report.

During our monthly flight in October, we saw plumes of river water starting to flow into Puget Sound. Though recent rainfall was higher than expected, river flows remained lower than they were at this time in 2018.

Temperatures still support salmon and herring

After a warm spring and summer, October air temperatures dropped to historic lows for the month. However, water temperatures remained warm enough in South and Central Sound for anchovies to spawn and to support optimal growth for herring and salmon in Whidbey Basin. This could be good news for Puget Sound’s food web.

Rafts of wrack ride the waves

Image A shows Hat Island and Anacortes labeled. Inset Image B, land labeled Bayview. Arrows labeled "debris" point to orange spots in the red and green water.
Organic debris in North Sound
By the end of October, many red-brown algae blooms vanished from South Puget Sound, yet some waters were still green with other phytoplankton. The red-brown blooms still painted Henderson and Sinclair Inlets, as well as Sequim Bay.

In some places, we watched rafts of organic debris drift on the water’s surface. These were especially evident in South Sound, Whidbey Basin, East Sound, Discovery Bay, Bellingham Bay, and Padilla Bay. Macroalgae rafts were clearly visible around the islands of the North Sound, accumulating at the edges of tidal gullies.

Feature — Marine Waters Report

Readers of Eyes Over Puget Sound may also find the Puget Sound Marine Waters 2018 overview to be of interest. This latest annual report details the effects of a changing climate in Puget Sound for 2018. We update this overview report as part of our participation in the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program’s Marine Waters Work Group. It is published by the Puget Sound Partnership.

By Diana Ruth Olegre, Environmental Assessment Program

Friday, November 15, 2019

It's America Recycles Day!

Free multimedia toolkit helps cities, counties, and schools reduce contamination in recycled material

Happy America Recycles Day! Today is your opportunity to recommit to reducing, reusing, recycling, and purchasing products made from recycled material. It's important to recycle, despite current challenges. Our Nov. 12 blog provided useful tips and resources to help you do it. But did you know that The Department of Ecology has a contamination reduction resource available for cities, counties, and schools that is proven effective at reaching Washington residents?

The Recycle Right Partner Toolkit is an easy and free way for cities, towns, and counties across Washington to help their residents clean up the recycled material they collect. The toolkit contains a variety of drag-and-drop multimedia resources in both English and Spanish that will kick start a contamination reduction outreach program or supplement existing material in order to take advantage of the popular statewide Recycle Right education campaign.

This past June, Ecology’s Recycle Right statewide education campaign reached Washington residents more than 32 million times with universal messages about the importance of household recycling being empty, clean and dry. This is a fact no matter what is accepted into your local system. The campaign’s success led us to develop a toolkit that will help our local partner agencies reduce contamination at the first step in the recycling process: when residents put materials into their recycling bin.

The toolkit is an assembly of short radio spots and videos, printed documents, and web banners. And there are Spanish versions of nearly everything. It is available for download only at Ecology's Partner Toolkit webpage. Easy-to-follow instructions direct visitors to a page where they can download the entire toolkit or just the material they need.

“A clean recycling stream is a sustainable recycling stream,” says Ecology’s Solid Waste Management program Manager Laurie Davies. “Educating our residents is proven to be the fastest and easiest way to reduce contamination in our recycled material.”

Cleaning up the state’s recycling stream has taken on new urgency as we implement our response to China’s crackdown on recycling contamination. Because more than 60 percent of Washington’s recycled material was shipped to China, the effects of this recycling crisis were felt especially hard here.

The Recycle Right campaign was created to educate Washington residents about the basics of recycling, focusing on reducing contamination and increasing the quality of materials in the state’s recycling stream. Over the course of three weeks, Washington residents experienced television and radio ads, and digital videos across a variety of platforms, and in both Spanish and English languages.
An example of a Spanish language web banner available in the Recycle Right partner toolkit.

An example of a English language web banner available in the Recycle Right partner toolkit.
Many Recycle Right partner toolkit materials are provided
in both English and Spanish languages, including these
web banners.
The campaign was very effective, focusing on television and radio audiences, as well as digital advertising on a variety of platforms like Facebook and Pandora. There was even a Recycle Right billboard in Tacoma. In addition to the 32 million views; 26,000 people clicked through to the Recycle Right website for more information. And the more than 500 comments we received on social media sparked impressive conversations about recycling.

View all the Recycle Right campaign videos at Ecology's YouTube channel.

Ecology is offering the Recycle Right Toolkit to our municipal and county partners, and now schools and other organizations, to supplement and streamline their growing efforts to educate Washington residents about the value of maintaining a clean recycling stream. Toolkit materials are plucked directly from the Recycle Right campaign and formatted for easy use. Some of the tools can be customized so that Ecology partners can make them work for their unique needs.

The toolkit was developed by C+C, the same company that developed our Recycle Right education campaign. And while it is intended to meet the needs of Ecology’s partners, the agency will make it available to other organizations, associations and schools, or individuals who believe it would be useful to their recycling contamination reduction efforts.

By Dave Bennett, Solid Waste Management

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Despite challenges, recycling is still the right thing to do – for the environment and the economy

This is an image of a King County transfer center over laid with the recycling logo and text that reads #BERECYCLED
The nation will celebrate America Recycles Day on Friday, Nov. 15. This is your chance to recommit to reduce, reuse and recycle. As you investigate ways to accomplish this for yourself, remember to check social media for recycling tips and tricks, and to find out what others are doing to take their recycling to the next level. 

Quickly search your social media channels by using the hashtag #BeRecycled.

November 15 is America Recycles Day!

Over the last few years, the recycling system in Washington and across the United States has been under siege, with low commodity prices and restrictions on overseas exports of recyclables leading some people to question whether recycling is really worth it anymore. Well, we’re here to tell you that recycling is absolutely still the right thing to do. Even with the new challenges, recycling makes economic and environmental sense.

As the nation prepares to celebrate America Recycles Day on Friday, Nov. 15, the Ecology is reminding residents of our state about the environmental and economic value that recycling brings. With all the changes going on in recycling today, it’s not always easy to find reasons to continue down a sometimes difficult path. So let’s take a moment to go over why recycling matters as much today as it ever has.

Recycling matters

Recycling protects our environment by conserving natural resources and reducing the need to extract and process raw materials. Using fewer raw materials by recycling protects air and water, which keeps our environment healthy for people and animals. It also saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the environmental benefits of recycling are commonly known. Recycling creates less landfill waste and reduces contamination risk to groundwater supplies. Recycling paper saves trees and forests. And recycling plastics means making less plastics to pollute our landscape and oceans. Recycling also benefits the economy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Recycling Economic Information Report from 2016, there are 1.57 jobs, $76,030 in wages and $14,101 in tax revenues created for every 1,000 tons of material that is recycled.

The biggest challenge facing the recycling system today is eliminating contamination. Contamination happens when a material enters the recycling system that does not belong, or when the right materials are prepared the wrong way, such as recyclables stuffed into plastic bags or food left in containers. Contamination can also occur when potentially recyclable items are put into local recycling streams that can’t handle them. Common contaminants include glass, garden hoses, plastic bags, lithium batteries, food or liquids.

It might not seem like a big deal, but imagine a worker trying to pick shards of broken glass out of a conveyor belt loaded with mixed paper and other materials. It quickly becomes far more effort than it’s worth – meaning that more material that could have been recycled – and should have been recycled - ends up going to the landfill.

Avoiding contamination doesn’t take a lot of work: Simply make sure all of the material you recycle is empty, clean, and dry.

Waste less, recycle better with Ecology's online resources

Recycling is a hobby for many Washington residents. Emptying a container until it is clean, and then sorting that dry recyclable into the appropriate bin so that it can be collected and turned into a valuable commodity is a process undertaken by millions of Washingtonians every day.

But even the most ardent recycler can get stumped once in a while. Can you put old Christmas lights into your commingled recycling bin? (Hint: No). Can your broken tablet be recycled at the electronics center along with computers and televisions (Hint: Yes).

For these questions and many more, Ecology has a variety of online recycling resources that can connect you with information and services to support your recycling habit:

1-800-RECYCLE is both a hotline (1-800-732-9253) and an online tool that connects you or your business to recycling services across Washington. This tool can help you find where in your community you can recycle everything from used appliances to leftover paint.


E-Cycle Washington is a free program that makes it easy for Washington residents to recycle their broken, obsolete or worn-out electronics. Electronic products contain valuable materials that can be recycled and toxic chemicals that should be kept out of the landfill. Items accepted include televisions, computers, laptops, monitors, tablets, E-readers, and portable DVD players. To date, E-Cycle Washington has collected almost 407 million pounds of used electronics.

LightRecycle Washington

LightRecycle Washington accepts fluorescent light bulbs – both the long tube kind and the twisty compact fluorescent bulbs – because they contain mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Washington state law requires that all mercury-containing lights be recycled, which includes both fluorescents and some high intensity discharge, or HID, lights. Although a single fluorescent light contains a very small amount of mercury, millions of these lights are sold every year in Washington state, raising the threat to harm human health and the environment if not properly recycled. Recycling these lights prevents the mercury from being released. The good news is that you can recycle these lights for free at hundreds of locations across the state through the LightRecycle program.

By Dave Bennett, Solid Waste Management

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

This creeping pedal sea cucumber might just give you the creeps!

Eyes Under Puget Sound's Critter of the Month

Creeping pedal sea cucumber, Psolus chitonoides. Photo courtesy of Dave Cowles,
Move over, bats and spiders! With its blood-red tentacles and scaly body, the creeping pedal sea cucumber might just be the next creature to haunt your Halloween nightmares.

Jeepers Creepers

The creeping pedal sea cucumber, Psolus chitonoides, is shaped like a cucumber with a flattened bottom, but it is far from a vegetable you’d eat with hummus. It is closely related to sea stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars in the Phylum Echinodermata (meaning spiny-skinned). This “cuke’s” spiny skin is covered with rows of overlapping plates, kind of like an armadillo or its armored molluscan namesake: the chiton. It grows to a whopping 7 cm — a little bigger than a fun-size candy bar.

Keep calm and creep on

Psolus chitonoides with tube feet extended in rare moments of activity.
Left: Photo courtesy of Aaron Baldwin, Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game.
Right: Photo courtesy of Johanna Raupe,
Although its flat bottom side is covered in tube feet, this sea cucumber doesn’t do much creeping. It is mostly sedentary, preferring to attach its soft sole to smooth, vertical rock surfaces. It moves so little that other organisms often colonize the top of its body, camouflaging everything but the red feeding tentacles.

Don’t live in fear of a surprise encounter with this creepy cuke … It is generally found in deeper water (low intertidal zone to depths of about 240 meters) from Alaska to California. In 30 years of sampling in Puget Sound, we have only collected four of them; this is probably because our sampling occurs mostly in areas with soft sediments rather than rocks.

Dark Web

These creeping pedal sea cukes are in full feeding mode with
sticky red tentacles waving. Photo by Jim Nestler,
The ten tentacles of the creeping pedal sea cucumber form a cup-shaped mesh that resembles a red spider’s web. Just like a spider’s web, these tentacles ensnare food using a super sticky substance. Each tentacle tip has little pads called papillae that secrete an adhesive material used to capture particles of detritus (dead organic matter) from the water. The tentacles may even have some chemosensory abilities, moving vigorously when they sense food is near. The cucumber then stuffs each food-covered tentacle into its mouth (note that one of the individuals in the image to the right has a tentacle in its mouth).

Bad blood

Psolus chitonoides with its tentacles retracted. Photo courtesy
of Kevin Lee,
You might think that waving brightly colored tentacles around would be an invitation for predators to come snacking, but these cool cucumbers have a nasty trick in store for anyone looking for treats. Their tissues contain toxic chemicals called saponins that are poisonous to many organisms, including fish and mollusks.

This trick doesn’t always work. There are a few predators that aren’t affected by the chemicals, including the leather star, several species of sun stars, and the red rock crab. As a last-ditch effort to protect itself, the cucumber can completely retract its tentacles into its body. This leaves it looking like an unappetizing ball of orange armored plates. Now that’s what we call creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky!

By: Dany Burgess & Angela Eagleston, Environmental Assessment Program

Critter of the Month

Our benthic taxonomists, Dany and Angela, are scientists who identify and count the benthic (sediment-dwelling) organisms in our samples as part of our Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. We track the numbers and types of species we see in order to understand the health of Puget Sound and detect changes over time.

Dany and Angela share their discoveries by bringing us a Benthic Critter of the Month. These posts will give you a peek into the life of Puget Sound’s least-known inhabitants. We’ll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role each critter plays in the sediment community. Can't get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Cleaning up: An affordable housing milestone

A pair of street corners in southeast Seattle may not look like much right now, but they’re already a first-of-its-kind cleanup site for Ecology. Yet, it’s a contaminated site much like hundreds before it that have undergone cleanup and been put to new use. We’re opening a public comment period on a cleanup plan that marks an important an important step forward.  
A drawing of planned buildings, five stories on either side of an intersection.
The Maddux will provide affordable housing and street-level shops about a block from a Link light rail station.
Illustration courtesy of Mount Baker Housing Association.

A first

The Mount Baker Housing Association’s Maddux project is the inspiration for Washington’s Healthy Housing Remediation Program, which we developed in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Commerce. The program enables local governments and nonprofit organizations to obtain state funding to help offset environmental cleanup costs when redeveloping contaminated land for affordable housing.

Mount Baker acquired a cluster of lots where S. McClellan Street intersects with Martin Luther King Way S. The association plans 166 affordable units with street level retail a block from Sound Transit’s Mount Baker Link light rail station and near a variety of shopping and services.

Overcoming a common obstacle

These plans overlap with a costly problem that’s common to urban redevelopment. Previous use of the property – in this case a gas station and a dry cleaner – left contamination behind. The remediation program, building on earlier funding we’ve provided for the project’s cleanup, has enabled Mount Baker to proceed with more than $6 million in state assistance to hire consultants who evaluated the contamination, sifted through cleanup options and worked with us to propose a cleanup plan.

The former gas station at Martin Luther King and McClellan. The former dry cleaner is across McClellan at far left. Ecology photo.
We’re asking the public, as part of the state Model Toxic Control Act cleanup process, to review those studies, the plan, proposed updates to our legal agreement with Mount Baker, and environmental review documents we’ve prepared.

That comment period runs through November 26, 2019.

Historic releases from gas stations and dry cleaners are the most common types of cleanup sites in Washington. Current laws on handling cleaning chemicals and managing underground storage tanks prevent these problems at today’s cleaners and fill-up stations.

A cleanup plan that fits the project

The gas station cleanup will primarily involve excavation of soil in and around areas where underground tanks and system piping once were.

The dry cleaner’s contamination requires a more complex approach. The solvents that were used mix readily into water. Even a small spill or leak into the ground can spread over a wide area if it enters the flow of groundwater. That’s what happened here (see the map below), and the Maddux development will incorporate features that factor in a cleanup process that may continue for several years.

A map shows property parcels at the intersection of McClellan Street and Martin Luther King, Junior, Way. Shading shows areas at a former dry cleaner and at a former gas station where soil will be removed. Other shading shows the estimated location of groundwater that is contaminated with solvent chemicals.
The cleanup plan will protect people from contaminated
groundwater, shown in blue. Processes to break down
the plume’s solvents will proceed over several years.
Illustration courtesy of Mount Baker Housing Association.
Excavation of the contaminated soil under the dry cleaner and adjacent parcels will remove the source of the groundwater contamination. This will help slow or stop the expansion of the plume of solvent-contaminated groundwater that extends under S. McClellan Street, part of the former gas station and under an adjoining stretch of Martin Luther King Way S.

The rest of the plan allows the project to proceed and cleanup to continue without disrupting traffic on the two streets:
  • Because the solvent compounds can release vapor that can rise through the soil, the project will be engineered with capping, vapor barriers and sub-slab ventilation. The property deed will prohibit future modifications that change these protections without notifying us and obtaining our approval.
  • Long term monitoring will provide information on how well the cleanup treatments are working and track the breakdown of the solvents.
  • After 5 years of monitoring, the time to reach cleanup in the groundwater will be recalculated. If it is determined to be too slow, Mount Baker will inject a chemical (such as zero valent iron) into the groundwater that aids in the breakdown the contaminants. Bacteria that’s naturally present in soil also helps by feeding on the solvent chemicals, breaking them down biologically.

We will review the monitoring data and the condition of the site every five years to determine how well the plan is working and whether any changes are needed. We’ll issue a report on these periodic reviews and ask for public comment each time.

Two people operate a soil core sampling apparatus. On the left a person kneels, and on the right a person stands. Both hold parts of the equipment. Both are dressed in helmets and safety vests. They are inside a room with dry cleaning equipment.
Technicians for a consulting firm drill below the floor 
of a former dry cleaner to gather environmental samples.
Photo courtesy of Mount Baker Housing Association.

Public meeting

Along with the comment period, we’re hosting a public meeting and open house. Our cleanup experts will be there, along with representatives from Mount Baker and their environmental consultants. 

We’ll have displays about the project and the cleanup plan and will be glad to discuss the cleanup and answer questions. We’ll also give a presentation and take audience questions. Translation and interpreter services will be available in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Khmer.

By: Larry Altose, Northwest regional communications manager

More information:

The documents out for comment:
A fact sheet about the project's cleanup process is available in Chinese, English, Khmer, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Other links: