Public comment needed on harbor cleanup

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The Department of Ecology is asking for public comment on a legal agreement surrounding petroleum cleanup in the Blaine Harbor. Public review on this agreement, which started October 12 and is open until Tuesday, November 10, will help begin the formal cleanup process at the Sea K Fish cleanup site.

The agreed order, which is the legal agreement between the Port of Bellingham and Department of Ecology, requires the port to conduct a remedial investigation that will characterize the site, evaluate clean up options in a feasibility study and create a draft cleanup action plan, according to Department of Ecology documents.

The Port manages the cleanup site, where seafood wholesaler Starfish Inc. currently operates, in an agreement with the Department of Natural Resources. The Port discovered an oil sheen on rip rap in 2016, and reported it to the Department of Ecology’s Environmental Report Tracking System. The Port then placed a boom in the water to temporarily control the oil sheen while it conducted preliminary investigations that concluded in 2019.

Investigations revealed contamination from old underground petroleum storage tanks and hydraulic fluids from former fish oil processing equipment. The Port approached the Department of Ecology this March to start the formal clean up under Model Toxics Control Act, Washington’s cleanup law for potentially harmful contamination.

The cleanup is expected to begin in 2022 but the timeline can fluctuate, said Ian Fawley, outreach specialist for the Department of Ecology’s Bellingham office.

The level of environmental impact will not be known until the site hazard assessment is complete, Fawley said. The Port’s 2019 investigation showed contamination in the soil and groundwater.

After the 30-day comment period, the Department of Ecology will finalize the drafted legal documents. Landau Associates, contracted by the Port, will also begin a remedial study and investigation. The consulting firm has also worked on other Blaine Harbor cleanup sites, including Westman Marine Inc. and Blaine Marina Inc., Fawley said.

Between 2021 and 2022, Department of Ecology will finalize the remedial investigation and feasibility study, create a draft cleanup action plan and enter the consent decree, a legal agreement for the final cleanup.

“Above and beyond, it’s to help revitalize the Blaine industrial waterfront,” said Ben Howard, Port of Bellingham environmental project manager. “Doing cleanup will allow tenants to expand or put infrastructure underground.”

The Department of Ecology and Port of Bellingham partnered with RE Sources, a Bellingham-based environmental advocacy nonprofit, to create a virtual tour instead of the tour that would normally occur at the cleanup site.

To view the virtual clean up, visit re-sources.org/2020/10/seakfish. Submit a comment at bit.ly/2FwCmKs.

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