Washington State Department of Ecology - October 15, 2013

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Whatcom Falls Park groundwater to be tested for gasoline from pipeline explosion

BELLINGHAM – Environmental cleanup work continues in Whatcom Falls Park 14 years after a pipeline leaked and caused a massive gasoline explosion in Bellingham.

Olympic Pipe Line plans to turn off a water treatment system on Wednesday, Oct. 16, for tests to see if gasoline remains in groundwater at the site.

The work is part of a restoration effort to return the park to its natural state.

The Washington Department of Ecology has given Olympic approval to turn off the water filtration system as part of a field test.

The park was burned and contaminated in 1999 by a large gasoline leak from the Olympic pipeline. Approximately 237,000 gallons of gas leaked into Hannah and Whatcom creeks, which flow through the park. Much of the gas burned off in the fire, though, some of the gas leached into soil and bedrock.

A water treatment system was installed by Olympic to catch and treat contaminated groundwater before it reached Whatcom Creek. The system has been in place for 14 years and has treated more than 12 million gallons of water.

Data shows that water flowing through the system since November 2008 – more than 3 million gallons – meets state standards for cleanup sites.

With the system off, officials can study the groundwater under natural conditions.

"We want to see if any gasoline remains in the soil, and if migrates into the stream," said Louise Bardy, an Ecology cleanup program supervisor. "This will be a good way to find out if any still remains."

Spill response equipment will be on hand for immediate deployment if any sheen is observed in the stream. The filtration system can be restarted right away, too.

If more gasoline is found then additional cleanup work may be required.

"When systems like this are shut down, there is a period of time where we want to watch closely," Bardy said.

Provided there are no problems with the shutdown, the filtration system will remain on standby for one year.

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Media Contact: Dustin Terpening, @ecynorth, dustin.terpening@ecy.wa.gov, 360-715-5205

For more information:

Recalling the Olympic Pipeline Explosion: (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/special_focus/bellingham_pipeline/bellinghampipeline.html)

Voluntary cleanup site (https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/gsp/Sitepage.aspx?csid=4649)