Friday, February 8, 2013

More Sampling Planned at Contaminated Shipyard

Soil, sediment and groundwater samples will be collected by Port of Bellingham contractors from a shipyard in Fairhaven later this month to better locate and define the extent of contamination on the property.

The Harris Ave. Shipyard site, located at 201 Harris Ave., has been used as a shipyard since the early 1900s, and past shipbuilding and ship maintenance operations contaminated portions of the site.

Contractor crews collected samples from in and around the property from Jan. 28 through Feb. 2, 2013, and collection is scheduled again for Feb. 14. The work is expected to cost about $130,000, according to the port, and is part of an extensive environmental study being performed, which would be used to develop future cleanup plans.

Previous sampling and investigations have found gasoline, diesel, oil, arsenic, metals, polychlorinated biphenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, semi-volatile organic compounds and more in the soils, sediment and groundwater. Their concentrations, which exceed standards set by the state’s cleanup law, have been typical of historic shipyard operations throughout the Puget Sound.

Two tenants currently lease the property from the Port of Bellingham, All American Marine and Puglia Engineering, but neither is believed by the port to have caused the contamination.

The property, which is owned partly by the state and port, has been designated as a cleanup site by the Washington Department of Ecology, the agency overseeing the sampling and future cleanup.

A 2010 legal agreement between the port and Ecology Dept. requires the port to assess contamination and cleanup options. The department is scheduled to reimburse half the port’s costs through the state’s Remedial Action Grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites and is funded with revenue from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

The Harris Avenue cleanup site is one of 12 sites around Bellingham Bay that are part of a coordinated, bay-wide effort by federal, tribal, state and local governments to clean up contamination, control pollution sources and restore habitat. The pilot program, known as the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot, is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound.