Bellingham Bay cleanup

We are managing the cleanup of 12 sites in the Bellingham Bay area. All are on or near the waterfront. Two sites have been completely cleaned up, and we are monitoring them to make sure they continue to meet cleanup goals. Most of the other 10 have had some clean up and are on their way to completion. The Port of Bellingham, the City of Bellingham, and others are doing the cleanup work under legal agreements with us.

Click on a site for more information or read about the sites below, listed from north to south.

Background

The Georgia-Pacific West pulp and paper mill in 1973. Image courtesy DOCUMERICA.

The cleanup sites along Bellingham Bay are the legacy of municipal and industrial practices that preceded modern environmental laws. Soil, marine sediment, and groundwater were contaminated by operations at the former Georgia-Pacific pulp and paper mill, municipal landfills, wood treatment plants, shipyards, and a coal gasification plant. 

Environmental restoration

Cleaning up contaminated sediment is challenging. It’s complicated due to the number of tribal, federal, state, and local jurisdictions with authority, and the fact that the contamination can come from many sources. Site-specific sources include contaminated soil runoff and contaminated groundwater flowing to the sediment. Bay-wide sources include stormwater outfalls and particulates like dust and smoke settling from the air.

To help address these challenges, the organizations with jurisdiction in Bellingham Bay came together and developed the Bellingham Bay Comprehensive Strategy This document informs and guides in-water projects that will help restore the environmental health of the bay.

Our main role in the restoration is overseeing the cleanup of contaminated sites.

2017 and 2018

Significant cleanup construction work was completed, including the removal of:

  • 14,500 cubic yards of sediment
  • 3,200 cubic yards of contaminated soil
  • 36,900 square feet of over-water structures
  • 905 creosote-treated pilings

Bellingham Bay 2020 Cleanup Update Fact Sheet (click image to download PDF file)

2019

A number of important cleanup documents were completed to prepare for construction in 2021:

  • Four legal agreements amended or created
  • One Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study report completed
  • Two Cleanup Action Plans completed
  • Two engineering design documents completed

2020

Our 2020 Cleanup Update for Bellingham Bay reports the progress made in 2019, provides the current status of each site, and describes the work planned in 2020.

The on-going cleanup of contaminated sediment, and control of sources of contamination, will provide clean rearing habitat for forage fish and Chinook salmon, an important food source for Puget Sound's resident orcas.

Cleanup sites and progress

The Model Toxics Control Act is Washington's environmental cleanup law and defines the formal cleanup process shown above. (Click image above to learn more or download a text explanation.)


Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot Project

The Bellingham Bay cleanup effort began as the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot Project in 1996, co-managed by us and the Port of Bellingham. This bay-wide effort included 12 agencies from federal, tribal, state, and local governments, and Georgia-Pacific West. The goal of the project was to coordinate the cleanup sediments, control sources of pollution impacting sediments, and restore habitat, while considering land and water uses. In 2000, the Bellingham Bay Comprehensive Strategy was finalized.

Today, this group is called the Bellingham Bay Action Team. It has a slightly different composition and is mainly led by us. The team continues to coordinate in-water projects with the guidance of the Bellingham Bay Comprehensive Strategy.

Bellingham Bay Action Team​