Get familiar with a cleanup site along Blaine’s waterfront that is contaminated from past petroleum storage and fish oil processing operations. You can have a say in how the Washington state Department of Ecology might address the contaminants!
Submit a public comment on the site’s cleanup here between October 12th and November 10th, 2020.
We’ve created a virtual Google Maps tour featuring videos with transcripts and links to learn about the site’s history and issues it faces. It will help you feel more prepared to share your thoughts with Ecology. View it below, or open in Google Maps here.
Like this tool? Join RE Sources’ email newsletters to get updates on ways to have your voice heard, learning tools, and more.
Background: An industrial history on Whatcom’s waterfronts
The Bellingham Waterfront was a seat of industrial activity for more than 100 years, an era that ended with the closure of the Georgia-Pacific tissue mill in 2007. Industries left behind a legacy of toxic pollutants in the soil, sediment, and water — including mercury, nickel, dioxins, petroleum byproducts, and more. The shoreline was also physically altered by armoring off beaches, dredging up sediment, and filling in parts of the natural shoreline to build on.
Several other sites, such as Sea K Fish, also have pollution from past use that needs to be cleaned up.
See the Department of Ecology’s map of the 12 contaminated sites in Bellingham Bay and where each one is in the cleanup process. You can also see what cleanup sites are near you with Ecology’s searchable map tool.
Until very recently, this industrial development also resulted in the central waterfront area being largely off-limits to the public ever since, despite the fact that the City and Port of Bellingham currently own the land. While it’s easy to feel separated from this legacy, it affects places Bellingham residents know and love. Even local favorite Boulevard Park was home to a coal-fired gas plant that left heavy metals and fossil fuel byproducts.
The toxic contamination and heavily modified shoreline make the waterfront hazardous to young salmon, which need clean, protected, and connected nearshore habitat to grow and make it to the open ocean. The decline of eelgrass beds and gravely beaches which act as nurseries for forage fish (which salmon need to eat) have put an additional stress on our dwindling salmon populations.
Bellingham’s waterfront gives our community a unique opportunity to make something positive from former industrial areas. As we’ve seen from the completed cleanup at Waypoint Park in 2018 — complete with some young salmon habitat, new businesses, and a playground — it can be done.
This product is funded through a Public Participation Grant from the Department of Ecology. Banner photo by Ecology.