By Steve Guntli
The Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) has identified some potentially hazardous chemicals at Blaine Marina, Inc. and is asking for public input going forward.
The DOE and the Port of Bellingham have completed a joint investigation into contamination at the Blaine Marina cleanup site. The first draft of the report, called a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) has concluded that high levels of potentially harmful chemicals exist in and around the site.
Cris Matthews, a hydrogeologist with the DOE, is the site manager for the project. His team has been working on the study for the last three years. The crew evaluated the environmental features of the site and developed options for a cleanup.DOE found traces of petroleum, metals, volatile organic compounds and naphthalene in the groundwater and soil. Long-term exposure to some chemical elements of petroleum, such as benzene, could cause cancer, according to Matthews. Investigators believe most of these contaminants are left over from an accidental fuel release at the site in May 1990.
Blaine Marina, Inc., purchased the site in the 1950s. It is used as a tank farm and a fueling facility for commercial and recreational boats.
The RI/FS report includes options for cost-effective cleanup solutions. The preferred cleanup method involves removing antiquated petroleum storage tanks from the site, removing approximately 3,000 tons of contaminated soil and constructing a new bulkhead on the shoreline to prevent erosion.
“The cleanup will remove older infrastructure from the site,” Matthews said. “The port is considering a range of alternative fueling locations and intends to include local tenants and boaters in a site selection process.”
The cleanup would temporarily limit access to Sigurdson Avenue at the end of Marine Drive, which leads to Boundary Fish.
The cleanup process will cost an estimated $2.2 million. The Port of Bellingham is responsible for financing the project. The DOE will reimburse a portion of the costs through the state’s Remedial Action Grant program, which helps pay for the cleanup of publically owned lands. That grant is funded through revenues from taxes on hazardous substances.
Matthews estimates the cleanup will take between five and eight years.
“Work will initially include the removal of petroleum-contaminated soil and groundwater,” he said. “Ongoing remedial treatment of the affected area will ensure we protect human health and the environment.”
DOE is inviting the public to review and comment on the RI/FS from May 18 to June 16. The department will review and consider all comments, and if any comments result in significant changes, the department will redraft the study and submit it for another 30-day evaluation. If 10 people or more request a public meeting, DOE will post a notice and hold a public meeting to discuss the study.
A copy of the draft RI/FS can be found at the Blaine Public Library, along with a fact sheet. The study can also be found online 1.usa.gov/1ET2XU5.