Department of Ecology News Release - February 16, 2023

Ecology invites comment on updates to toxic cleanup regulations

Proposed changes would improve the process for prioritizing, investigating, and cleaning up contaminated sites

The Whatcom Waterway cleanup in Bellingham is part of the ongoing cleanup around Bellingham Bay, which is a great example of how cleanups can transform communities. 


The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking input on proposed amendments to the state’s environmental cleanup regulations. These regulations guide cleanup of sites where toxic substances have leaked or spilled and might threaten humans or other living things.

The proposed rule amendments would:

  • Require Ecology to consider environmental justice — the goal of ensuring everyone has equal protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to decisions made about environmental protection — when:
    • Prioritizing sites for cleanup or funding. Ecology would be required to prioritize vulnerable populations and overburdened communities impacted by contaminated sites and to track Ecology’s progress in reducing such impacts.
    • Conducting cleanup work. Ecology and regulated parties would be required to consider and document site and cleanup impacts on vulnerable populations and overburdened communities when making cleanup decisions.
  • Improve the site hazard assessment, ranking, and prioritization process.
  • Update and clarify requirements for investigating sites and selecting cleanup actions.
  • Improve initial response to releases from regulated underground storage tanks.
  • Strengthen requirements for Tribal engagement and public participation for Ecology-supervised cleanups.
  • Clarify requirements for people cleaning up sites independently.
  • Make the rule easier to read, understand, and use.

These proposed amendments would not change any of the technical standards a site must meet to be considered "clean."

The full text of the proposed amendments is available on Ecology’s website. This rule was last amended in 2007.

Provide input

Ecology is accepting public comments on this rule through Sunday, April 16, 2023.

Submit comments online, by mail, or at a public hearing.

  • Comment online
  • Mail comments to:
    Sarah Wollwage
    Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program
    P.O. Box 47600
    Olympia, WA  98504-7600

Public hearings

We are holding two online public hearings on this rule proposal. Hearings will begin with a short presentation and question-and-answer session, followed by the opportunity to provide formal comments.

If you don’t have internet access, you can also call in to either hearing.

Thursday, March 23, at 10 a.m.

Monday, March 27, at 5 p.m.

Contact information

Cheryl Ann Bishop