FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 31, 2011
Ecology extends Whatcom Waterway comment period
OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is extending the public comment period on proposed changes to cleanup plans for some areas of the Whatcom Waterway cleanup site on the Bellingham waterfront.
The changes are described in a proposed amendment to a 2007 legal settlement, called a consent decree, among Ecology, the Port of Bellingham and other parties. Ecology extended the end of the public comment period on the proposed changes from April 11, 2011, to April 27, 2011, because of a procedural error in publishing notice of the comment period.
Most of the Whatcom Waterway cleanup plan will remain unchanged from the 2007 consent decree, but changes are necessary to the cleanup action in a portion of the outer waterway. Ecology received new information that indicates that dioxin and furan levels in buried marine sediment in the outer waterway are likely too high to qualify for open-water disposal as originally planned.
In response to this new information, the Port of Bellingham and its consultants developed an alternative approach for managing these materials. This alternative approach also can be applied to some other areas of the site.
Ecology and port representatives held a public meeting on the proposal on March 15 at Bellingham Technical College.
Proposed changes involve moving material from portions of the outer waterway and other areas of the site into an old waterfront industrial waste treatment lagoon after the lagoon is cleaned up according to 2007 plans. Dredged material would be contained in the lagoon under a layer of clean sediment.
The clean layer would be designed to meet state cleanup standards based on the port’s plan to open the lagoon to Bellingham Bay and convert it into a marina.
Ecology evaluated the proposed changes and confirmed that the approach would meet state cleanup requirements.
Proposed changes also include adjusting the project sequencing. Under the proposed amendment, the site would be cleaned up in two construction phases. The first phase would include cleanup of the inner waterway, consistent with the 2007 plan. Construction of the first phase of cleanup would begin in 2012. The second phase would include cleanup of the outer waterway and the treatment lagoon with construction beginning in 2017.
The Whatcom Waterway site is more than 200 acres. It includes underwater sediment and an industrial wastewater treatment lagoon. Contamination at the site is the result of operations dating back to the 1960s at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper plant, which closed in 2001. The port acquired property within the site in 2005.
Studies conducted as part of the cleanup process showed mercury and other contaminants at the site in concentrations that exceed requirements of the state’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act, and must be addressed.
The Whatcom Waterway cleanup is expected to cost about $90 million. Ecology will reimburse up to half the port’s costs through the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The state Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.
The site is one of 12 cleanup sites in the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot, a multi-agency collaborative effort to combine cleanup, control of pollution sources, habitat restoration and land use. The pilot program is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound, and it is a model for other large-scale cleanup initiatives.
Comments accepted March 11 – April 27, 2011. Submit public comments to:
Lucy McInerney, site manager
Washington Department of Ecology
3190 160th Ave. SE
Bellevue, WA 98008-5452
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Media Contacts: Seth Preston, Ecology communications manager, 360-407-6848; 360-584-5744 cell; [log in to unmask] Carolyn Casey, Port of Bellingham communications manager, 360-676-2500
For more information:
• Ecology’s Whatcom Waterway web page (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites/whatcom/ww.htm) – to navigate there: go to www.ecy.wa.gov, click on “Cleanup” tab, “Site List by County,” and “Bellingham Bay sites.”)
• Fact sheet, including site diagram and description of the alternative (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/1109121.html)
• Read the document at the Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave.
• Make an appointment to read the document at Ecology’s offices. In Bellingham, call 715-5200. In Bellevue, call 425-649-7190.
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