Department of Ecology News Release - January 3, 2013

13-003

Interim work will clean up small part of Bellingham Bay waterfront

BELLINGHAM – In an effort to prevent petroleum contamination from leaching into Bellingham Bay, crews will clean up a small section of shoreline along the Whatcom Waterway near downtown Bellingham.

Crews are moving equipment and supplies into position this week and plan to work nights starting Jan. 7, 2013, when tides will be lowest. This interim project is expected to finish mid-February.

“The night tides will be really low, which is a perfect time to get in and do this,” said Brian Sato, site manager with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). “The lower the tide goes, the less water there is and the easier and cleaner the work will be.”

Contractor crews will dig out roughly 80 truckloads of petroleum-contaminated soil and sediment from a 5,000-square-foot area of beach at the Central Waterfront cleanup site, near the west end of C Street. Then crews will install a liner in the ground to prevent recontamination, and rebuild the beach with clean material.  

This is considered interim work because it only addresses a small portion of the much larger 55-acre Central Waterfront site. The state, port and city are working together to develop long-term cleanup plans for the entire site.

“We wanted to clean up this specific spot now because we’ve seen it leave an oily sheen intermittently on the waterway,” Sato said.

 Site managers with Ecology and the port first discovered a sheen in February 2012, prompting this work.

The petroleum contamination is from an old bulk-fuel-storage facility that operated at this location from 1904 to 1987.

The port hired contractor Ram Construction of Bellingham for the interim cleanup work, which is expected to cost about $500,000. The work is required by an Ecology-approved cleanup plan.

Ecology will reimburse half the cost of cleanup through the state’s Remedial Action Grant program. The program helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites and is funded with revenue from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances. The city and port will fund the rest of the project.

As part of the long-term cleanup plans for the Central Waterfront site, the port and city are developing a state-required comprehensive environmental study (known as a remedial investigation). This will then be followed by an analysis of the cleanup options (known as a feasibility study).

Ecology expects to release a draft report of the remedial investigation and feasibility study for public review in December 2013.

The Central Waterfront site is one of 12 cleanup sites around Bellingham Bay that are part of a coordinated, bay-wide effort by federal, tribal, state and local governments to clean up contamination, control pollution sources and restore habitat. The pilot program, known as the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot, is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound, and it is a model for other large-scale cleanup initiatives.

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Media contacts:

Dustin Terpening, Ecology Communications Manager, 360-715-5205

Carolyn Casey, Port of Bellingham Director of External Affairs, 360-676-2500

More information:

Project website (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/gsp/Sitepage.aspx?csid=3418)

Ecology’s social media (www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html)