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Cleanup Site Updates and Water Quality Permits

In the United States, pollution by businesses is regulated under a permit system, which is a government-issued authorization to pollute the air or water. Permits limit the type and amount of pollution, and require industries to treat or capture as much pollution as is “reasonable.”

In Washington, pollution permits are issued under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and regulated by the state Department of Ecology. When permits come up for review, citizens can participate in the public process and comment on the details of the permit, calling for stronger environmental regulations where necessary.

Current Public Comment Periods

Oil spill contingency plan
Public comment period: August 8th - October 6th

Submit your comment

An oil spill could pose a significant threat to the environment, people and local economies. In Washington, large oil handling facilities, vessels, and pipelines are required to have oil spill contingency plans to ensure they are adequately prepared in case of a spill.

In 2018, the Legislature passed a bill directing the Washington Department of Ecology to amend the Oil Spill Contingency Plan Rule. Ecology is formally proposing an update to Chapter 173-182 WAC, the oil spill contingency plan rule. This rule requires large commercial vessels, oil handling facilities, and pipelines to have detailed contingency plans and contracts for appropriate equipment and trained personnel to respond to spills that may occur.

Through the rulemaking process, Ecology is proposing amendments that would:
  • Establish requirements for Ecology to review and approve independent spill management teams.
  • Require increased capability for responding to spills of oils that may submerge or sink.
  • Require vessel, facility and pipeline contingency plan holders to participate in a complex, large-scale drill.
  • Update contingency plan requirements so vessels and facilities have consistent standards for training, operations and response technology.
  • Establish standards for oiled wildlife response service providers.

Ecology contact:
Ty Keltner, Communications, 360-407-6990

Recent Public Comment Periods

Central Waterfront Cleanup Site
Public comment period: 
July 8th - Aug 6th 
Submit your comment

Central Waterfront Tour:  
Wednesday, July 10th, 12:00 - 1:30 PM
1000 F St, Bellingham (map)
RSVP on Facebook

Join us for a public tour of the Central Waterfront site, which is contaminated from former activity like lumber mills, bulk fuel terminals, foundry operations, a landfill, and more. Staff from the Department of Ecology, City of Bellingham, and Port of Bellingham will answer your questions and encourage your comments on the cleanup plan that has been released, which includes removing higher-level contaminated soil, capping lower-level contaminated soil and refuse, and treating and monitoring groundwater. 

This site has potential for future salmon habitat restoration, as well as a public trail and business use. Come learn and have your voice heard! Email North Sound Baykeeper Eleanor Hines with any questions, at

Comments can be submitted online or by mail to:
Lucy McInerney, Site Manager, WA Department of Ecology
3190 160th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA 98008-5452
(425) 649-7272
Quick Links: Central Waterfront site fact sheet | Ecology's cleanup plan 
Alcoa's Intalco Aluminum smelter sulfur dioxide  
Public comment deadline: June 10th, 2019
Comment here

Alcoa Intalco Works has agreed to install a wet scrubber to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Ecology invites the public to comment on the project. 

Marblemount granite mine proposal 
Public comment deadline: May 13th, 2019

Kiewit Corporation seeks to extract an estimated 3.8 million cubic yards of rock (Shuksan greenschist) over a projected 100 year period in the Skagit River valley, adding 260 vehicle trips every day to the North Cascades Highway 20. They also plan to clearcut 90 acres. This threatens air and water quality in a culturally-important area with crucial salmon habitat.  

Harris Avenue Shipyard, Fairhaven 
Public comment deadline: April 30th, 2019

The Site consists of approximately 5 acres of contaminated marine sediment (in water) and 5 acres of contaminated soil and groundwater (upland). The contamination is from historic shipbuilding and other industrial operations. Contaminants were found in soil and groundwater (petroleum hydrocarbon compounds and metals) and sediment (polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semivolatile organic compounds, and metals). The contaminant levels are potentially harmful and must be addressed under Washington’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act. This project is still in the early phases, so this is an excellent window to give input! See Ecology's webpage for more info, or email Eleanor Hines, North Sound Baykeeper at

Quick Links: Site fact sheet; Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) Report Volume 1 and Volume 2

South State St. Manufactured Gas Plant, North Boulevard Park 
Public comment deadline: November 6th, 2018

The contamination is from a former manufactured gas plant and other historic operations located at the north end of Boulevard Park located on Bellingham Bay, which includes both upland and marine areas. The contaminant levels are potentially harmful and must be addressed under Washington’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act. See Ecology's webpage for more info.

Quick Links: Fact Sheet, Remedial Investigation (ReportFigures and TablesAppendices A-DAppendix E, Feasibility Study (Report, Figures, Tables, Appendices)

BP Cherry Point Spill Prevention Plan 
Public comment deadline: July 4th, 2018 @ 5 PM

The Department of Ecology invites you to comment on a 5 year updates to industry oil spill plans, required by the state’s oil spill prevention regulations. Oil handling facilities are required to have a state-approved plan for prevention of oil spills from the facility into waters of the state, and for the protection of fisheries and wildlife, other natural resources, and public or private property from oil spills. The following plan is now available for public review: BP Cherry Point Spill Prevention Plan.
Blaine Marina Cleanup Site
Public Comment deadline: June 5th, 2018

Department of Ecology's e-comment system here.
Ecology will accept comments on these documents from May 7 - June 5, 2018 for review:
Cleanup alternatives at GP West site, Bellingham waterfront
Public Comment deadline: April 10th, 2018

The Department of Ecology invites you to comment on a feasibility study (environmental report) that evaluates cleanup alternatives for contamination within the Chlor‐Alkali area of the Georgia Pacific West (GP West) site in Bellingham. The Port of Bellingham prepared the report with Ecology oversight. The Port identified and evaluated a range of cleanup alternatives, leading to a preferred alternative. All of this work is detailed in the report, and Ecology will accept comments on it from March 12 – April 10, 2018. Click here to submit your comment.

Quick Links: Fact sheet from EcologyGP West site overviewpublic comment form.

Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy
Public Comment deadline: Nov. 30, 2017

A new Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy that aims to reduce shoreline armoring in Puget Sound is ready for public review and input. The Habitat Strategic Initiative team developed the strategy in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Puget Sound Partnership, Puget Sound Institute, and an Interdisciplinary Team of experts.

Quick Links: Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy drafta quick videofact sheet.

Boulevard Park Shoreline Maintenance
Public Comment Deadline: August 21, 2017

The City of Bellingham and Department of Ecology are planning to perform maintenance work on a portion of Boulevard Park shoreline to repair damage from winter storms. The work aims to prevent underlying contamination from getting into Bellingham Bay, and the goal is to get the work done before the next round of winter storms.

Under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), Ecology has determined that the proposed work will not have significant adverse impacts on the environment. Interested citizens can review documents related to the project and submit a comment during the comment period, which ends on August 21st.

Quick links: Public comment period website, SEPA factsheet, SEPA checklist and determination of non-significance.

Lehigh Northwest Cement Company Discharge Permit
Public comment deadline: July 26, 2017
Final permit expected: October 2017

The Department of Ecology has issued a draft permit for Lehigh Northwest Cement Company, authorizing discharge of cooling water, stormwater, and truck wash water to Bellingham Bay and nearby. The plant produces cement using clinker and gypsum, which arrive in trucks and on trains. Around 150 tons of clinker arrives from Canada per day. The facility is dusty, but operators are taking steps to prevent discharge of dust. Lehigh has two permitted discharge points, one to Bellingham Bay and one to groundwater. Their permit contains limits on oil and grease, pH, total suspended solids, and turbidity.

Quick links: Draft fact sheet, draft permit, permit document search

Types of Permits  

Ecology issues permits under several categories: Industrial, Construction, Municipal, and Transportation.

Industrial Stormwater General Permit
The ISGP permit covers various industries that have the potential to pollute, as indicated by their industrial code. The ISGP requires businesses to develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control stormwater, sample for pollutants on a quarterly basis, and report the findings to Ecology.

Construction Stormwater General Permit
The CSGP permit covers construction activities that disturb 1 acre or more. The CSGP requires the contractor to implement BMPs at the construction site, sample any discharge on a weekly basis, and report the findings to Ecology. The CSGP also requires that BMPs be part of permitted construction sites. Learn more about construction site BMPs, including effective means to control stormwater on construction sites.

Municipal Stormwater General Permit
The MSGP permit covers municipal activities in urbanized areas under Phase 1 permits (population greater than 100,000) or Phase 2 permits (population less than 10,000). Both Whatcom and Skagit Ccounties are regulated under Phase 2 permits, as are Anacortes, Bellingham, Burlington, Ferndale, Mount Vernon, and Sedro-Woolley.

The Phase 2 MSGP requires municipalities to provide public education and outreach, provide opportunities for public involvement, detect and eliminate illicit discharges, implement the CSGP, control stormwater and use BMPs for municipal operations, manage stormwater from newly constructed and redeveloped sites, and monitor stormwater.

Washington State Department of Transportation Municipal Stormwater Permit
The WSDOT permit covers highway systems within the same urbanized areas covered under the MSGP.