Features Archive 2013

The home page on Ecology’s website showcases a more in-depth look at the work we do on behalf of Washington’s citizens. The following is a collection of these features.

This is the work we are doing at Ecology every day. It’s not easy, and we’re not perfect, but the citizens of Washington should know that a committed and talented group of public servants are working hard on everyone’s behalf to secure a quality of life we can all be proud of.
Ted Sturdevant, former Ecology director

| 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |

King Tides in Washington

(this Flickr slideshow uses Adobe Shockwave)

posted: December 23, 2013
program: Shorelands and Environmental Assessment

Documenting potential sea-level-rise impacts

We encourage Washington State residents and visitors to grab their cameras and head to the beaches to take photos of this winter's king tides. Documenting how very high tides affect the natural environment and our coastal infrastructure will help us visualize what sea level rise might look like in the future.

For more information, see:
> King Tides coming Dec, 31 - Jan. 7! (see tide schedule)
> Why we watch extreme high tides
> Share your photos on Flickr
> Follow on Twitter (#KingTides)

Water Quality Standards

posted: December 16, 2013
program: Executive Office

Fish consumption discussion on TVW, with Ecology director Maia Bellon

Maia appeared on the TVW show "The Impact" to talk about the relationship between fish consumption and clean water standards.

The issue is in discussion because Ecology is currently working on two related rules for Surface Water Quality Standards (Chapter 173-201A WAC):

  1. Establishing new human health criteria.
  2. Providing new implementation and compliance tools for dischargers.

For more information, see:
> Reducing toxics in fish, sediments and water
> Human Health Criteria and Implementation Tools Rulemaking

Air Quality Burn Bans

posted: November 27, 2013
program: Air Quality

What you should know about burn bans

Bans are necessary when poor air quality and stagnant conditions are expected to continue for several days. By limiting burning and following restrictions when burn bans are called, residents can help improve air quality sooner. Ecology calls burn bans only in counties where there is no local air quality agency.

For more information, see:
> Check for Ecology burn bans
> Blogs about wood smoke (ECOconnect)
> Regional haze and fine particle pollution
> Video: How to operate your wood stove

Reduce smoke from burning wood

posted: October 23, 2013
program: Air Quality Program

How to Operate Your Wood Stove More Efficiently

When temperatures drop, smoke will increase in many Washington communities as we begin nesting and fire up wood-burning devices to heat our homes. When smoke combines with diesel emissions and other tiny pollution particles, air quality can quickly degrade. That sometimes results in bans on burning. Wood smoke is one of the most serious air pollution problems in Washington.

For more information, see:
> Wood smoke and burning clean (ECOconnect blog)
> Tips on wood stoves, fireplaces and pellet stoves
> Regional haze and fine particle pollution
> Video: What you should know about burn bans

Decommissioning Abandoned Wells

posted: October 11, 2013
program: Water Resources Program

Abandoned Wells: A Hidden Danger

New video available about this “hidden danger” As part of our continuing efforts to protect public safety, Ecology’s Well Construction and Licensing Office has created a short YouTube video “Abandoned Wells: A Hidden Danger.” The video:

For more information, see:
> (ECOconnect blog)
> Decommissioning of abandoned wells
> Wells - Licensing, Construction and Reporting

Shoreline Naturalization

posted: September 20, 2013
program: Water Quality Program
Eastern Regional Office

Lake Spokane bulkhead removal and shoreline naturalization

In the spring of 2012 Ecology began working with local partners to identify potential property owners interested in naturalizing their shoreline on Lake Spokane. The lake, known for low dissolved oxygen problems, is actually a reservoir on the Spokane River controlled by Avista Utilities’ hydropower operations. Run-off and other non-point source pollution from homes contribute to the lake’s water quality problem. In order to help address these impacts the project team pursued a demonstration bulkhead removal and shoreline naturalization project.

Eric and Alycia Staggs decided their property located on the southeast corner of Lake Spokane was the perfect guinea pig for the project. Their bulkhead was failing and they were excited about making the change to a naturalized shoreline. The majority of the project was funded through Ecology’s Water Quality Program’s Direct Implementation Fund, a subset of federal grant funds dedicated sources of pollution like residential runoff and erosion.

For more information, see:
> Lake Spokane shoreline goes natural (ECOconnect blog)
> Tips and tools for shoreline property owners
> Protecting our living shorelines
> Spokane River Basin

Hanford Updates

posted: August 22, 2013
program: Nuclear Waste Program
Richland Field Office

Tank Storage, Operations & Closure (TSOC) Project

The focus of Ecology’s TSOC Project is the safe storage and retrieval of waste from Hanford's 149 single-shell tanks (SSTs) and 28 double-shell tanks (DSTs). The tanks are in 18 groups known as “farms,” and each tank has a capacity of about 50,000 to more than one million gallons.

For more information, see:
> Hanford C Tank Farm incident (8/21/2013)
> Tank Storage, Operations and Closure
> Frequently Asked Questions about tanks
> Hanford Education and Outreach on Facebook

Wildfire Smoke Updates

posted: July 31, 2013
program: Air Quality Program

Updates on wildfires and real-time information about air quality

Keep track of smoke effects and get forecasts about smoke movement from area wildfires by visiting a clearinghouse blog and websites sponsored by local governments and state and federal agencies. Residents can also follow real-time air quality information at permanent air quality monitors across the state.

For more information, see:
> Washington Smoke blog (interagency blog)
> Air Quality monitoring information
> Real-time air quality data (map)

Eyes over Puget Sound

posted: July 24, 2013
program: Environmental Assessment Program

Marine Water Quality Monitoring: water surface conditions

Estuaries like the Puget Sound have naturally large differences in water quality. We monitor marine water in Puget Sound, Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay using seaplanes, ferries and moored instruments.

The water surface reflects many processes that occur below the surface. Within two days of observation we report on visible features near the surface. These range from algae blooms, oil sheens to whales. Covering the scale from satellites, aerial photographs and measurements in the water we offer broader context for our observations.

For more information, see:
> What did “Eyes Over Puget Sound” see July 15? (ECOconnect blog)
> Marine water quality monitoring
> Eyes over Puget Sound archive

Waterfront restoration success

posted: June 19, 2013
program: Toxics Cleanup Program

Cleaning Up: Wenatchee’s waterfront revival

The city of Wenatchee’s vision for a revived Columbia River waterfront continues to prove fruitful, thanks in part to seed money from Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program (TCP). Wenatchee city officials used a $150,000 integrated planning grant from TCP to develop a plan for reuse of an old landfill along the river. These grants are intended to help communities examine and plan redevelopment of sites known as "brownfields" – abandoned or underused properties that may be contaminated with toxic materials.

For more information, see:
> Cleaning Up: Wenatchee's waterfront revival (ECOconnect blog)
> Brownfields Integrated Planning Grants
> Ecology's brownfield program

Marine sediment monitoring in Puget Sound

posted: June 5, 2013
program: Environmental Assessment Program

Sediment Quality in Central Puget Sound, Changes over a Ten-Year Period

Because pollutants can adversely affect the organisms living in the sediment, our team of Ecology scientists has monitored Puget Sound sediment quality for over two decades. We measure levels of chemicals and toxicity, and identify and count invertebrates living in sediment samples to determine the overall condition of the bottom of Puget Sound.

Sediments in the bottom of Central Puget Sound show declining environmental health over a 10-year period. Central Puget Sound is the area south of Whidbey Island to the Tacoma Narrows. It includes industrialized and urbanized Elliott and Commencement bays, Sinclair Inlet and Bainbridge Basin.

For more information, see:
> News release: Sediment health in Central Puget Sound declining (June 4, 2013)
> Report: Sediment Quality in Central Puget Sound, Changes over a Ten-Year Period
> Marine sediments monitoring program
> Environmental Assessment Program
> Puget Sound Partnership's Vital Signs Dashboard Indicators

Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication and Health (BEACH)

posted: May 24, 2013
program: Environmental Assessment Program

Saltwater beach health monitoring

The BEACH Program monitors high-risk beaches for bacteria. Beaches are considered high-risk when they have a lot of recreational users and are located near potential bacteria sources. Monitoring can indicate pollution from sewage treatment plant problems, boating waste, malfunctioning septic systems, animal waste, or other sources of fecal pollution.

We monitor for an indicator bacteria called “enterococci.” The presence of this bacteria at elevated levels means there is a potential for disease-causing bacteria and viruses to also be present.

For more information, see:
> About the BEACH program
> Follow us: | Listserv | Blog | Facebook | Twitter |
> Look up your local beach

Mercury pulled from ground on Bellingham waterfront

posted: May 7, 2013
program: Toxics Cleanup Program

Cleanup site in Whatcom County

Contractor crews will dig out pockets of mercury contamination on Bellingham’s waterfront, removing approximately 500 tons of contaminated soil. The soil will be mixed with sulfur and cement and turned into concrete blocks. Then the blocks will be transferred to a permitted hazardous waste landfill. The contamination was left behind by Georgia-Pacific, a former pulp mill that used mercury as part of its pulping process.

For more information, see:
> Georgia-Pacific West cleanup site (Bellingham)
> Photo gallery of the cleanup (Flickr)
> Aquatic lands cleanup
> Mercury Reduction in Washington

FREE auto maintenance workshop to stop oil leaks

posted: April 9, 2013
program: Communication & Education

Don't Drip and Drive — Fix That Leak!

The Department of Ecology and Seattle Public Utilities have teamed up with community colleges and some high schools to offer free auto leaks workshops to help you learn about your car and make sound choices for Puget Sound.

Certified automotive instructors teach the monthly workshops at fully equipped auto-repair training centers at South Seattle Community College, Shoreline Community College, Renton Technical College and West Seattle High School.

For more information, see:
> Don't Drip and Drive workshops (King County)
> Washington Waters - Ours To Protect
> Enviro Tips: What you can do to protect the Earth

Dock Removal in the Olympic National Park

posted: March 22, 2013
program: Southwest Regional Office

Managing Tsunami Marine Debris

Removal of Japanese dock on Olympic Coast has been completed. A 185-ton dock that washed out to sea during the March 2011 tsunami in Japan has now been removed from Washington's Olympic Coast. As of March 28, crews from The Undersea Company of Port Townsend, Wash., removed the last of the dock's concrete and plastic foam from the beach and the inland landing site.

For more information, see:
> Marine debris incident: Dock at Forks
> Tsunami/marine debris facts
> NOAA's Marine Debris Program

Managing Nuclear Waste

posted: March 1, 2013
program: Nuclear Waste Program

Hanford Storage Tank Leaks (TVW video)

The U.S. Department of Energy has determined there are six, single-shell tanks leaking radioactive waste at Hanford. Last week, the governor was told about one of those tanks. There are a total of 177 tanks at the Hanford site, 149 of which are single-shell tanks.

In August 2012 a leak was reported in one of the double-shell tanks. While there is not an imminent threat of release of contamination, this is an important reminder that USDOE and its contractors must complete the Waste Treatment Plant and get it into service without further delays. These storages tanks are the oldest double-shell tanks and are just past their service life of 40 years, but they remain critical to the retrieval mission.

For more information, see:
> Ecology director Maia Bellon on TVW's Impact
> Gov. Inslee's statement on leaking tanks
> Nuclear Waste Program
> Background: Ecology monitoring leak in double-shell tank at Hanford

Photographing King Tides

See more King Tides photos on Flickr

posted: February 22, 2013
program: Climate Change policy

The Washington King Tide Photo Initiative

The highest tides of the year occur in the winter? These tides, referred to as “King Tides”, occur naturally when the sun and the moon align, causing an increased gravitational pull on the Earth’s oceans. This winter king tides occur in December, January and February. Documenting how very high tides affect the natural environment and our coastal infrastructure will help us visualize what sea level rise might look like in the future.

For more information, see:
> King Tides Photo Initiative
> King Tides photo gallery on Flickr
> Climate Change Response Strategy (including coastal hazards and sea level rise)

What you should know about: Fine particle pollution

posted: January 22, 2013
program: Air Quality Program

Protecting Air Quality

Fine particles in air pose serious health risks to Washington residents. This video describes pollution sources and possible solutions. Be the difference, breathe the difference!

For more information, see:
> Clean-burning home heat
> Reducing auto emissions
> Real-time air monitoring data