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Bellingham Bay Cleanup Projects & Public Participation Archive


There are 12 contaminated sites in Bellingham Bay that are undergoing study and/or cleanup as part of the multi-agency Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot. 

The Washington State Department of Ecology is overseeing the study and cleanup of these sites under the Model Toxics Control Act Cleanup Act (MTCA): hazardous substances tax.

There are opportunities for community members to have input during the cleanup process for each site. This section of our website is designed to help you participate in the public process. Stay tuned for upcoming public presentations and forums to learn more about the public process for the Bellingham Bay cleanup sites.

Public Participation Project Focus 

The North Sound Baykeeper, in coordination with and funded by the Department of Ecology, is working to educate citizens about cleanups in and around their communities. The goals of the North Sound Baykeeper Bellingham Bay Cleanup Program are to:

1. Increase the literacy of the community about the state cleanup process in general, and cleanup efforts in Bellingham Bay,

2. Help individuals learn more about the cleanup sites in detail, and other cleanups and cleanup issues as opportunities arise, so they can make informed decisions and comments on environmental documents for each site, and

3. Achieve the best cleanup possible under state law for each site.


Why Do These Cleanups Matter? What Are Your Opportunities to Comment?

Cleaning up these sites is necessary to protect people, plants, fish, birds and other life from exposure to harmful levels of contamination. All phases of the cleanup will be conducted under the Model Toxics Control Act, passed by citizen initiative in 1988 and enacted in 1989.

By educating yourself on the history, contamination, and cleanup processes for the Bellingham Bay Waterfront, you can keep up to speed and participate in the pubic process to ensure the cleanups for these sites are the best possible under state law . Learn more about the cleanup process [insert link] and find out more on each of the cleanup sites.

Information About Each Cleanup Site

Central WaterfrontThis 55-acre cleanup site is located on Bellingham Bay, and has been used for industrial activities since the1890s, including a municipal landfill, bulk petroleum fuel storage, boat repair and storage, building product manufacture and storage, and seafood sales and distribution. Contaminants associated with these historical industrial uses have been found in the soil and groundwater, including petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, and copper as well as methane gas.  An interim action that removed petroleum-contaminated soil from a portion of the site was completed in 2013.  A Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), is due to be released for public review in early 2016. Read more.

Cornwall Avenue Landfill: This cleanup site is located on the Bellingham waterfront between Boulevard Park and the former Georgia-Pacific pulp mill. The land was used for sawmill operations for nearly 60 years, dating back to the late 1800s and later as a city landfill in the 1950s and ‘60s. Groundwater and sediment have been contaminated from these activities as well as from neighboring contaminated sites. The RI/FS, Cleanup Action Plan (CAP), and Consent Decree (CD) for this site are complete. An Engineering Design Report (EDR) is expected to be released in 2016 for public review. Read more.

Eldridge Municipal Landfill: This was a historic municipal landfill located on property within Little Squalicum Park. The property is currently owned by the county and managed as part of the park by the city. An interim cleanup action was performed in 2011 that removed the majority of municipal waste and contaminated soils to allow park redevelopment. A public review/comment period for The RI/FS, CAP, and CD for this site just ended on October 20th, 2015. The CD includes requirements for groundwater monitoring, and use restrictions to prevent disturbance of remaining limited areas of buried contaminated soil. Read more.

Georgia-Pacific West - Cleanup underway now: This cleanup site, now owned by the port, includes about 74 acres on the Bellingham waterfront, and was used to manufacture paper products from 1925 through 2007. The two RAUs (remedial action units) are the Pulp and Tissue Mill, which contains metals, low pH, petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the Chlor-Alkali Plant, which contains mercury, high pH, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Two interim cleanup actions have been implemented, one removed petroleum-contaminated soil and debris from a portion of the Pulp and Tissue RAU in 2011, and the other removed mercury-contaminated soil and building materials from a portion of the Chlor-Alkali Plant RAU in 2013/2014.  An RI for both RAUs is complete, as well as an FS, CAP, and CD for the Pulp and Tissue Mill RAU. The cleanup of this RAU is expected to begin in November 2015 and will include additional soil removal, soil capping, groundwater monitoring, and property use restrictions and is estimated to cost $5.7 million. Information on plans for cleanup and public comment are expected for the Chlor-Alkali Plant RAU in 2016. Read more.

Harris Avenue Shipyard: This site consists of contaminated uplands and aquatic lands associated with past practices at an active shipyard. From past shipyard activities, this site has contaminants that exceed the state standards, including heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and petroleum hydrocarbons.  An interim cleanup action  to remove contaminated marine sediments, soil, and treated wood pilings from a portion of the site is on hold due to the inability of the state to provide matching grant funds. The RI/FS for this site is  expected in 2016. Read more.

Holly Street Landfill: Located in the Old Town district of Bellingham, this was a cleanup of uplands associated with a historic municipal landfill that also successfully integrated the creation of habitat for fish and wildlife and improved public access to the water. The site was part of the original Whatcom Creek estuary and mudflat in the 1800s. The cleanup, completed in 2005, addressed the physical presence of solid waste, methane production, as well as impacts to Whatcom Creek. Read more.

I&J Waterway: This site consists of  3.1-acres of aquatic lands associated with over a century of historic industrial uses, including a lumber mill, a rock-crushing plant and currently, a seafood processing plant. An RI/FS was completed in 2014 and the  preferred cleanup alternative calls for dredging and removal of the most contaminated sediment located in a designated ship traffic lane, capping a shallow less contaminated area that is planned to be part of a future beach park,  and a combination of enhanced and monitored natural recovery for the remaining areas that are being naturally buried by clean sediment from the Nooksack River. The CAP and CD or amended Agreed Order are expected to be out for public review early in 2016. Read more.

Little Squalicum Park: This site comprises 21 acres of parkland on Bellingham’s northeast waterfront, including Little Squalicum Creek, an independent drainage running through the park, fed by spring water and stormwater runoff. Portions of this park were contaminated, in part, by past operations at the Oeser Co., which is an active wood treating business located next to the park. Hazardous substances discovered included municipal waste, pentachlorophenol (PCP), dioxin, copper, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). EPA took over the regulatory lead on this site, since it is considered part of the Oeser Superfund cleanup. Cleanup at this site is complete. Read more.

Marine Services Northwest: This site is comprised of contaminated aquatic lands associated with the past practices of an active boatlift. More investigation and sampling for this site needs to take place to characterize the contamination. Read more.

R.G. Haley: This site  consists of contaminated uplands and aquatic lands associated with an old wood treatment facility and an old lumber mill. Site contaminants include pentachlorophenol (PCP), hydrocarbons related to diesel fuel, dioxins, furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). An interim cleanup took place in 2013 to contain oil seeping from the shoreline in an area of the site.  A public review/comment period for the RI/FS just ended on October 14th, 2015. Read more.

South State Street Manufactured Gas Plant: This site, located at the north end of Boulevard Park, is comprised of contaminated uplands and aquatic lands associated with a historic gasification plant, which operated from the 1890s through the1940s. Toxics include petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), as well as benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX). An RI/FS is currently being compiled to determine the nature and extent of contamination and assess cleanup options, and is expected to be available for public review in 2016. Read more.

Weldcraft Steel and Marine: This site, adjacent to Squalicum Harbor on the Bellingham waterfront, is comprised of contaminated uplands and aquatic lands associated with historic boat repair, maintenance and fabrication work. In 2004, an interim action removed contaminated sediment from the site as part of port redevelopment activities.  An RI/FS was completed in 2014, and the preferred site-wide cleanup alternative includes removal of petroleum product floating on the groundwater and containment of contaminated soil.   Public review of the Consent Decree or amended Agreed Order, with a Cleanup Action Plan is scheduled for early 2016. Read more.

Whatcom Waterway - Cleanup underway now: This 200-acre site, including an industrial waste treatment lagoon, is associated with the former GP pulp and paper plant operations. In a 2001 interim action, GP capped contaminated sediment and restored habitat in the Log Pond area with oversight by Ecology.  The RI/FS, CAP, CD, and Phase 1 EDR have been completed for this site. Construction of Phase 1 of the cleanup is currently underway and is scheduled to be completed by March 2016.  The Phase 1 cleanup includes dredging, capping, and shoreline stabilization work and is expected to cost $30.6 million.  Phase 2 of the cleanup is expected to begin in 2018..  Read more.

Aerated Stabilization Basin (ASB), part of the Whatcom Waterway site: The ASB in a former 29-acre industrial waste treatment lagoon.  From 1979 through 2007, the ASB treated wastes from Georgia-Pacific’s pulp and paper operations. The ASB connects to Bellingham Bay via a 6,000-foot-long underwater discharge pipe called an outfall, and the chemicals of concern include phosphorus, barium, boron, cobalt, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, silver, selenium, thallium, hexachlorobenzene, toluene, mercury, dioxins, and furans.The port must drain the ASB as part of the Ecology-mandated cleanup of the Phase 2 areas of the Whatcom Waterway site. Cleanup of the ASB will include draining some of the liquid contents into the bay, and removing and dewatering the sludges prior to their disposal in a permitted upland landfill. Cleanup of the ASB is expected to start in 2018. Read more.

Understanding the State Cleanup Process

The cleanup of historically contaminated sites is not easy or straightforward. Answers to many commonly asked questions and more can be found in this informative presentation "Bellingham Bay Cleanups - Making Sense of the State Cleanup Process" by Lucy McInerney, PE and Site Cleanup Manager with the Department of Ecology. View her presentation here.  Read more about the cleanup process.

This product was funded through a grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology. While these materials were reviewed for grant consistency, this does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Ecology.