A plan to contain asbestos along Swift Creek will be reviewed for possible environmental impacts.
The plan, if carried out as written, would affect Swift Creek itself. It calls for three main approaches to controlling the spread of sediment that contains naturally occurring asbestos: steel-and-timber structures in Swift Creek canyon, levees to control flooding, and excavated basins to trap sediment and slow flood waters.
The upcoming study, called an environmental impact statement, was approved by the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District board of supervisors on Tuesday, Aug. 7.
County Council members, acting as the flood board, voted 7-0 to approve a contract with Wheeler Consulting Group of Bellingham to conduct the study. The contract, which pays Wheeler $255,890, ends in August 2013, indicating the study should be completed next year.
Most of the money for the study, about $172,000, comes from the state Department of Ecology. The rest is from property taxes collected in the county for flood control.
The plan to be scrutinized was completed in early 2011 and proposes a $10 million "mid-term" solution to controlling asbestos in the sediment in Swift Creek.
Long-term management would require stabilizing a landslide on Sumas Mountain, which is the source of cancer-causing asbestos, in addition to heavy metals, according to the plan.
A February 2008 report by the state Department of Health said people who live around the creek have the same rates of cancer and other health problems as the rest of Washington. But asbestos levels in the air were above what the state and federal governments considered safe, the report said.
Any parts of the plan that pass the environmental review would be built with the help of grant funding, county Special Projects Manager Roland Middleton said in a memo to the flood board. The board also could spend money from the flood control tax, which will collect $3.18 million from county property owners this year.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2261.