Friday, January 24, 2020

Fecal Matters: No-contact advisory issued for Port Washington Narrows and Sinclair Inlet, Kitsap County

BEACH program update

red sign with no swimming symbol: Closed High bacteria levels in this water may cause illness.  Other beach activities permitted. Washington Beach Program
Kitsap Public Health District issued a no-contact health advisory for Port Washington Narrows and Sinclair Inlet in effect through January 29th. This is due to an approximately 82,400 gallon sewage spill from Bremerton Public Works. Signs have been posted at public access points and the public is advised to avoid contact with the water in those areas.

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 on water quality at your beaches by following our Fecal Matters blog posts, connecting on Facebook, or joining our listserv.

Julianne Ruffner, our BEACH Program Manager, is available at 360-407-6154 or for questions.

Cleaning up: How a light rail project keeps a landfill site on track

How do you build light rail and widen a freeway along the edge of a well-managed former municipal waste landfill? Very carefully! 

And, with plenty of cooperation among public agencies.

We’re working to do exactly that with Sound Transit, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).

Grassy land slopes from left to right to a freeway on the right. Above these, in the background, are green trees and a partly cloudy sky.
A grassy meadow covers the Midway Landfill, next to the I-5 freeway southbound lanes between Seattle and Tacoma. White pipes behind the fence are part of the system to collect landfill gas, given off by decomposing municipal solid waste below.

The site: a former landfill

The City of Seattle’s 60-acre Midway Landfill site adjoins the west side of I-5 in Kent. The landfill closed in 1983. Under our oversight, and review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, SPU:
  •  Covered the landfill with an engineered, multilayered waterproof cap and a top layer of grass.
  • Installed a gas extraction system to control methane generated by material in the landfill.
  • Controlled surface water.
  • Fenced the landfill to limit access to the site.

These protective elements have been in place since 1992. SPU continues to monitor groundwater quality and landfill gas at the site, under a legal agreement with us, last updated in 2006.

A map shows the landfill in the center, with the freeway just to the right. A double yellow line shows the future path of light rail along the freeway at the landfill's edge. A red line shows the landfill boundaries. A blue line shows the work area for light rail construction.
Sound Transit will build light rail on the landfill's east side,
along I-5's southbound lanes. (Click or tap image to enlarge.)

Transportation projects

Two planned south King County transportation projects will run half a mile through the eastern edge of the landfill. Sound Transit plans to extend its Link light rail line from Angle Lake to Federal Way. WSDOT plans to widen a stretch of I-5 as part of its SR 509 Completion Project.  Preparation of the landfill for the two projects will be combined into a single project called FWLE/SR 509 Midway. FWLE stands for Federal Way Link Extension.

FWLE/SR 509 Midway will bring changes to the site. We’re developing legal agreements and engineering plans with all three parties – SPU, WSDOT and Sound Transit -- to ensure that the site’s environmental and public health and safety measures continue to function during and after construction.

The combined project will involve excavating some of the landfilled municipal waste, and will affect the landfill cap, the gas collection system, and surface water monitoring network. Because of this, we’re requiring:
  • Transfer of excavated municipal waste to an authorized landfill.
  • Restoration of disturbed portions of the landfill cap and other infrastructure.
  • Documentation of all required work for our review and approval.

Some of the site’s land ownership will change. Sound Transit will acquire part of a strip – for the light rail tracks – that now belongs to WSDOT and will assume responsibility for maintaining that portion of the landfill cap. Seattle will continue to operate surface water controls, the gas extraction system, and the ongoing monitoring program.

Plans and agreements available

We’re asking the public to review and comment on four documents that will govern how the FWLE/SR 509 project will be built, and how the site will be reconfigured:
  • Consent Decree Amendment:  update to our existing legal agreement with SPU.
  • Prospective Purchaser Consent Decree:  new legal agreement between us and Sound Transit.
  • Cleanup Action Plan Amendment:  describes actions we will require to maintain the integrity of the site’s protective elements during and after the proposed construction.
  • Public Participation Plan: explains how people can participate in the cleanup process.

Grassy land slopes from right to left toward a freeway on the left. Trees and a blue sky with a few clouds are in the background
Looking south across the Midway Landfill where it adjoins I-5.

Comments invited; public meeting planned

The comment period begins on Jan. 27 and concludes on Feb. 25, 2020. Comment online or mail comments to: Mark Adams, Site Manager; Dept. of Ecology; 3190 160th Ave. SE; Bellevue WA, 98008-5452.

We’re also inviting the public to a meeting and hearing. We, SPU, Sound Transit and WSDOT will give a short presentation and answer questions about the site and the projects. There will be time for giving oral comments.
  •  Tue., Feb. 11, 2020; 7 - 9 p.m.
  • Des Moines Elementary School, 23801 16th Ave. S.
  • Interpreter services will be available in Spanish, Korean, and Somali.
 We’ll review and respond to all comments received. We expect the new plans and agreements to be in place by mid-2020.

By Larry Altose, communications manager, Northwest Regional Office

More information

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Boots on the ground: Members clean, pack, and plant to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year, our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) members join AmeriCorps programs across the country to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a “day on” rather than a “day off.” On MLK Day of Service, members transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community service that empowers individuals and helps solve social problems. Let's take a look at some projects our members arranged this year!

Five young adults wear dark blue shirts and stand in a line carrying yellow and white plastic bags full of food.
Left to right: Members Raechal Burke, Jordan Billheimer, Presley Barbo, Emma Mobley, and Allie Trister spent MLK Day serving the non-profit organization Homeless Backpacks, in Lacey, packing bags of food for youth experiencing homelessness. Photo contributed by Raechal Burke.

Packing bags for food assistance  

One of our field crews in Tumwater took a break from planting trees and shrubs to help make sure youth experiencing homelessness had food for the following weekend. Members packed bags of food with Homeless Backpacks in Thurston County, an organization that provides free bags of food for middle and high school youth for the weekend, when government-supported meals are not available.

Members also served food or conducted inventory at 13 different food pantries or shelters across the state, including FISH Community Food Bank in Kittitas County, Everett Food Bank in Snohomish County, and Helping Hands Food Bank in Skagit County.

Mailing books to support education

Another field crew in Tumwater supported enrichment and educational opportunities for incarcerated people across the country through the nonprofit Books to Prisoners Olympia in Thurston County.

“It was a heartwarming and rewarding experience,” said WCC AmeriCorps member Grace McLarty. “We got to choose books based on letters we received, and write letters to incarcerated people.” The crew rounded out their day leading volunteers in invasive species removal with Capitol Land Trust. “We had an amazing day and are grateful to have been able to serve our communities,” Grace said.

Three young adults wearing blue sweatshirts sit at an indoor table with envelopes and books on the table.
Left to right: Members Julie Pick, Mason Haynes, and Rainer Connelly select books for specific prisoners based on hand-written letters. Photo by Grace McLarty.

Building and painting walls for accessible housing 

WCC members built homes, assembled furniture, and improved facilities at 15 different affordable housing or senior housing organizations across the state. In Jefferson, Pierce, and Skagit counties, members assisted with painting and construction activities with the global nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity.

One of our crews cleaned rooms and facilities at Admiral House in King County, one of Plymouth Healing Communities’ apartment buildings. Plymouth Healing Communities provides housing and companionship to people living with housing instability and mental illness. Staff and residents invited our WCC members to enjoy food and conversation together after they wrapped up cleaning tasks, and our members shared that turned out to be a highlight of the day.

“My favorite and most challenging aspect of my MLK day of service experience was that it required me to exercise a completely different set of skills than the ones we use in our usual line of project work,” said AmeriCorps member Jon Simo. “Socializing with the residents is a skill that comes the least naturally to me than any other. However, that was precisely what made it so rewarding for me. I got to meet and help people from very different walks of life from my own.”

Planting trees for healthy ecosystems

A group of seven young adults stand in a field. They are all wearing dark blue sweatshirts.
Left to right: Members Bryan Sibrian, Ben Papadopoulos, Malise Yun, Abby Jackson, Lilya Jaeren, Tyler Ransier,
and Gabby Alampay. Photo contributed by Lilya Jaeren.

Seven Individual Placement AmeriCorps members opted to serve outdoors for their MLK Day of Service with Nisqually Land Trust in Thurston County. Together with community volunteers, they planted more than 1,000 native trees and shrubs.

“All seven of us do monitoring for our everyday projects so it was nice to do some environmental restoration, and good exercise digging holes and hammering stakes into the ground,” said Lilya Jaeren, who serves on the state Department of Natural Resources' Aquatic Reserves Team. “It was nice to know that our efforts will have a positive impact on the Nisqually River Watershed.”

In addition, a handful of crew members honed their leadership skills by teaching community volunteers about safety and planting techniques for a restoration event at Whatcom Falls Park in Skagit County, with Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, City of Bellingham, and Washington Trails Association. In total, volunteers planted 592 native shrubs, ferns, and trees, re-planted more than 2,000 feet of social trails, spread almost 50 cubic yards of mulch, and removed almost 10 cubic yards of invasive Himalayan blackberry, English holly, and English ivy!

These activities will help improve habitat for salmon and octher wildlife along Whatcom Creek, and hopefully inspire local residents to continue getting their hands dirty and building community by attending future volunteer events.

Honoring Dr. King's legacy all year

Our WCC joins thousands of AmeriCorps members, community members, and organizations across the nation in striving to honor Dr. King's legacy every day. As an AmeriCorps program focusing on environmental stewardship, WCC commits to continuing conversations about justice and service, creating a service atmosphere where all can thrive, and working to ensure service opportunities are available to everyone.