Westman Marine site slated for clean-up

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Once the place for boat repair and maintenance, the Westman Marine site is slated for clean-up. Toxins were found in the soil and sediments in the environment during a 2013-2014 investigation by the Port of Bellingham. The groundwater remains unaffected at this time.

Interim action was taken in 2014 by the Port of Bellingham to remove around 420 tons of contaminated soil.

The presence of tributyltin (TBT) at the site, an anti-fouling agent used to prevent barnacles and algae from growing on the underside of boats, is not only toxic to marine organisms but is also bioaccumulative, meaning it moves up the food web.

“It’s always been an industrial site since the harbor was created out of the tide flats,” said Ian Fawley, ecology outreach specialist for the Washington State Department of Ecology. “We’ve got a straightforward path on finding out where the contamination came from.”

The toxins at the site resulted from the historic operations of Westman Industrial Co. Fawley said the current tenants, Walsh Marine, are following the proper procedures to ensure that no further contamination is happening.

Department of Ecology communications manager Larry Altose said hazardous waste laws are instrumental in preventing further contamination.

“Historic contamination is often from a time period that preceded the hazardous waste laws that businesses operate under today,” Altose said. “These contaminated sites prompted the creation of laws that govern the management of waste from different types of commercial and industrial activities.”

The department of ecology determined there was no immediate need to address the human health or environmental impact at the Westman Marine site, Fawley said. The decision was made that it would be safe to continue the clean-up process over a longer period of time.

A feasibility study report written on the Westman Marine site contains a preferred alternative, or a proposed plan of action, for the rest of the clean-up. A cost and benefit analysis determined that it would cost around $6.1 million.

Fawley said the public is welcome to comment on the report until Wednesday, October 2. Informed by these comments, the report will then be finalized. The current draft can be found at bit.ly/2L9GrCS.

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