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.

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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 and controlling 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.

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.

Ecology's main role in the restoration is overseeing the cleanup of contaminated sites.

Cleanup progress

Bellingham Bay 2024 Cleanup Update Fact Sheet


Our 2024 Cleanup Update for Bellingham Bay:

  • Describes the cleanup process
  • Reports the progress made in 2023
  • Describes work planned for 2024
  • Provides information on cleanup sites

Previous work

We have already done substantial cleanup construction work in Bellingham Bay.

We've also completed numerous cleanup documents and investigations to prepare for more construction.

Cleanup sites

The 12 Bellingham Bay cleanup sites are in various stages of the cleanup process shown below. Sites are listed from north to south.

Washington's environmental cleanup law defines the cleanup process. See a text alternative to this graphic,

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​

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