Tour offers review of cleanup project

By Stefanie Donahue

After discovering hazardous chemicals in the groundwater and soil at the industrial area along Marine Drive in 2015, representatives with the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) embarked on an effort to clean up the site.

On May 24, representatives from Bellingham-based RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, the DOE and the Port of Bellingham offered the public a tour of the cleanup site to highlight their intentions to study and dispose of contaminated material. Participants began the tour at Blaine Marine Park and also learned more about the Port of Bellingham’s eelgrass restoration project at the south end of Drayton Harbor.

“This cleanup is exciting and somewhat unusual,” said Lee First, of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.

“For most sites around Bellingham Bay, cleanup has mostly entailed removing only the most contaminated material then capping the site. At Blaine Marina, the port hopes to remove at least 70 percent of the contaminated material and treat the rest.”

The last Blaine residents heard about the project was in January when the DOE asked for public input on the final cleanup plan. At the time, staff estimated construction would begin in late 2017 or early 2018.

The contamination is a result of three leaky fuel storage tanks that date back to 1955. The site was home to former Blaine Marina, Inc., which provided fuel for commercial fishing and recreation. Operations ceased in 2015, but the tanks and piping still stand.

Following an investigation from 1990 to 2007, experts found that diesel and oil released exceeded federal standards and posed a risk to human health and the surrounding environment. The Port of Bellingham was later tasked with conducting a secondary investigation and completing additional repair to the site.

DOE site manager Cris Matthews said crews are still studying the extent of the contamination to soil and groundwater near the storage tanks. Ultimately, they expect to excavate 3,000 cubic yards of material for treatment and disposal.

To learn more about the project, visit bit.ly/2j2m5z5.

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