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Here’s why you might see people cutting down trees in Whatcom Falls Park

Timeline of the 1999 pipeline explosion on Whatcom Creek

On June 10, 1999, about 237,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from an underground pipeline into Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., where it ignited and killed three.
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On June 10, 1999, about 237,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from an underground pipeline into Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, Wash., where it ignited and killed three.

If you see workers cutting trees and brush in Whatcom Falls Park, it’s part of an effort to provide access to two large water mains that run through the area.

“Crews for the city of Bellingham Public Works will be working in the area to clear trees and vegetation to remove hazards to the water mains and also to provide quicker access, if either main were to fail and require repair,” said Amy Cloud, spokeswoman for the city’s Public Works Department.

In an email, Cloud said the two mains are among the city’s largest, carrying up to half of the city’s water from a treatment plant in the park, and are critical for both drinking water and fire suppression.

They’re more than 80 years old and could require emergency repair at any time.

Cloud said the work will be near Cemetery Creek, in an area that’s still being restored in the wake of the deadly 1999 pipeline disaster.

It’s not near any established trails or roads and should have no impact on people who use the park, Cloud said.

“The maintenance work will be as cautious as possible in the ecologically sensitive area,” Cloud said. “Clearing will be limited to an area just 20 feet wide from the center of the two water mains.”

Work is set to start later this month and end in October, Cloud said.

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