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What’s next for Bellingham’s waterfront? Ecology releases a cleanup action plan

Here’s what’s happening on Bellingham’s waterfront

The Port of Bellingham and Harcourt, an Ireland-based developer, have completed several projects on the 137 acres of waterfront property. The port took ownership of the Georgia-Pacific land in 2005 in exchange for taking on its environmental cleanup.
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The Port of Bellingham and Harcourt, an Ireland-based developer, have completed several projects on the 137 acres of waterfront property. The port took ownership of the Georgia-Pacific land in 2005 in exchange for taking on its environmental cleanup.

The Washington State Department of Ecology released a draft of a $4 million cleanup action plan for the Central Waterfront Site in Bellingham Wednesday. A 30-day public comment period on the plan opens Monday, July 8, and runs through Aug. 6.

RE Sources for Sustainable Communities will host a walking tour of the site from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 10. Ecology, Port and City of Bellingham site managers will be available for questions. The tour will meet at 1000 F St., and more information is available on the RE Sources website.

The cleanup site is made up of approximately 51 acres on Bellingham’s downtown waterfront, between the I & J Waterway and the Whatcom Waterway and between Roeder Avenue and the former Georgia-Pacific industrial wastewater treatment lagoon. The land, which is owned by the Port of Bellingham, Sanitary Service Company and Puget Sound Energy, was created in the early 1900s by filling tidelands for various industrial uses.

Investigation found soil, groundwater and sediment contamination usually associated with historical industrial uses in the area, according to the plan released by Ecology.

The Port and city are eligible to be reimbursed for up to half of the project’s $4 million costs through the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites, according to the Ecology release.

Plans for the project began to take shape in March of 2018, when the Port and city, under Ecology’s supervision, did an environmental study of the site to assess cleanup options. Ecology then prepared a cleanup action plan that includes:

Ecology map.jpg
Washington State Department of Ecology Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Removing and properly disposing of approximately 1,000 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated soiled from the southern area of the site.

Capping contaminated soil and refuse using existing pavement and building foundations and paving over contaminated areas to prevent contact and erosion of contaminated soil into Bellingham Bay.

Retaining a clay berm on the western edge of the site that acts as a groundwater diversion wall, reducing the levels of contamination into groundwater.

Monitoring groundwater to ensure that natural processes continue to reduce contamination levels.

Evacuating and addressing potential soil petroleum vapors and landfill gas within buildings.

Restricting site uses and activities to prevent the disturbance of capped areas.

Monitoring cleanup action to ensure it meets cleanup standards for human health and environmental protection.

Integrating previous waterfront cleanup work.

After the public comment period ends Aug. 6, the cleanup action plan will be finalized by Ecology later this year. Design and permitting for the cleanup action will be obtained in 2020 and 2021.

Reviewing the cleanup action plan

Online: bit.ly/Ecology-CentralWaterfront.

Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave.

By appointment at the Ecology-Bellingham office, 913 Squalicum Way, Unit 101; 360-225-4400.

By appointment at the Ecology-Belleuve office, 3190 16th Ave. SE, Bellevue, 360-649-7190.

Submit comments

Dates: July 8 through Aug. 6.

Online: bit.ly/EcologyCentralWaterfront-Comments2019.

By mail: Lucy McInerney, Site Manager, Washington Department of Ecology, 3190 160th Avenue SE, Bellevue, WA 98008-5452.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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