Cleaning up: Making progress on the Bellingham waterfront

Cleanup along the Bellingham waterfront is moving forward, and we invite you to provide feedback and join us for a walking tour and open house.

We amended the existing Cleanup Action Plan for the700-plus acre Whatcom Waterway site on the waterfront and would like to know your thoughts. You can comment online April 24 through May 23.

This site is one of 12 Bellingham Bay cleanup sites coordinated through the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot. The pilot is a bay-wide, multi-agency effort to clean up contamination, control pollution sources and restore habitat, with consideration for land and water uses.

Past industry along the waterfront contaminated in-water sediment. This included discharges from the former Georgia-Pacific chlor-alkali plant, and releases of contaminants from wood waste products from historic log rafting activities, and pulp mill wastewater discharges.

As a result of these past industrial activities, studies conducted as part of the cleanup process have shown mercury, 4-methyphenol, and dioxin and furan compounds in sediment at concentrations that exceed the requirements of the state’s cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act, and must be addressed.

White building on the water.

Granary Building on Whatcom Waterway and location of walking tour and open house events.

The amendment to the Cleanup Action Plan is part of a legal agreement involving Ecology, the Port of Bellingham, the City of Bellingham, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The amendment:

  • Sequences design and construction activities to prioritize early cleanup at the Bellingham Shipping Terminal.
  • Documents a possible future change to the cleanup action at the head of the Whatcom Waterway to provide habitat benefit.
  • Revises the cleanup action for the Aerated Stabilization Basin, including dredged material disposal, due to changes in land use plans.
  • Adds a cleanup standard for dioxin and furan compounds due to regulatory changes.

For details about the Cleanup Action Plan amendment, visit the Whatcom Waterway webpage. An updated Public Participation Plan for the site is also available for review.

Cost and funding

The Port of Bellingham is leading the cleanup in coordination with the city and DNR. The cleanup action is currently estimated to cost about $160 million but may change once the engineering design and permitting are completed.

The port is eligible for reimbursement of up to half their costs from Ecology through the state’s remedial action grant program. This funding helps fund cleanup of publicly owned sites. The Washington State Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a tax on hazardous substances.


Outreach events

On Wed., May 3, we and RE Sources will host consecutive outreach events to provide project information and answer questions. RE Sources is hosting a walking tour of Whatcom Waterway followed by an open house hosted by us. Site managers from Ecology and the Port will join both the walking tour and open house.

Walking Tour: 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.

  • Meet outside Granary Building (1211 Granary Ave) next to Whatcom Waterway
  • This walking tour is funded by a Public Participation Grant from Ecology.

Open House: 5:00 – 6:00 p.m.

  • Meet inside Granary Building in Collective Multipurpose Room