Thursday, May 15, 2014

Around the Sound: Fidalgo Bay site thriving

By Seth Preston, Communications Manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Pete Adolphson (left) and contractors collect samples.

Contractors sort fish living in the water off the mill site.

This is what the shoreline looked like prior to work in 2013 ...

... and what it looks like now.
With some help, nature is healing itself in Fidalgo Bay. And the results are remarkable.

Site manager Hun Seak Park and senior sediments specialist Pete Adolphson of the Toxics Cleanup Program were in Anacortes recently to take samples and check conditions at the former Custom Plywood mill site on the bay's shore.

They found that the site, once choked with debris and pollutants from the burned-down old mill, is becoming a thriving, diverse ecosystem once more.

Pete said he, Hun Seak and a crew from contractor Hart Crowser found a surge in fish populations — herring, surf smelt, four species of salmon, and other fish species — living in the water adjacent to the mill site.

In the past, wood debris and toxics smothered the sediments in that part of Fidalgo Bay.

"It's impressive," Pete said of the conditions they found.

What a mess!

It took a lot of effort and time to get to this point.

The mill site had been used for heavy industry since the early 1900s. After a 1992 fire destroyed the mill, broken concrete and twisted rebar littered the site. Soil contained heavy metals and petroleum products.

Groundwater beneath the site was contaminated. Dioxins and wood debris smothered marine sediments. Old pilings coated with toxic creosote and the remains of old structures slowly deteriorated in the bay.

In 2011, TCP led a cleanup of the site's 6 uplands acres. Contractors removed pilings and structures from the land, and dug up about 33,600 tons of contaminated soil. They brought in about 39,000 tons of clean soil to rebuild the land.

In 2013, cleanup focused on the shore and in-water issues. About 1,450 old pilings and 7,000 tons of fired-damaged structures and materials over the water were removed. About 8 acres of in-water sediment contaminated with dioxins and wood debris were dug up. Fidalgo Bay was connected to a wetland area created in 2011. A jetty was extended and a new spit was added to prevent waves from eroding the shoreline. And the shoreline was almost tripled in length.

What a beauty!

It's almost hard to believe it's the same place.

A bald eagle nests near the site and can be spotted dining on fish near the site. (Pete estimates the overall fish population has increased by about 80 percent.)

Hun Seak's photos show the land is smooth, clean and being used by the site owner as more space for his boat-storage business. The shore is clear of contaminated sediments and rotting structures.

This is just one of many sites TCP is helping to clean up along the shores of Puget Sound. It's part of the Puget Sound Initiative, which focuses on cleaning, improving and protecting the Sound's water and habitats.

It's time-consuming, complicated work. It takes a lot of effort by many different people.

And it's worth it.


Unknown said...

Great news! The site is amazing now and what good news about the fish returning to the habitat. We'll share this link on the Trail Tales Facebook page and our upcoming newsletter.

Good work TCP!

Unknown said...

Thank you to the TCP for restoring this beautiful habitat for fish and wildlife. Great news to see such a big success with fish returning to the site. We'll share this link via our Trail Tales website.