Many ports operate at the bottom of river basins, in the estuaries and along the shorelines of major rivers. Consequently, as sources of pollution move downstream they often collect in the sediments of our harbors. Sediments have also been contaminated by the industrial land uses that historically exist around cities.
Washington’s ports have become leaders in cleaning up these contaminated sediments. When ports dredge up sediment for shoreline development or to improve harbor navigation, they follow strict cleanup requirements. Contaminated sediments are disposed of in special containment areas either along the shoreline or in landfills – resulting in a cleaner harbor.
Ports have completed many successful cleanups, including:
In 1985, the Port of Seattle created a confined disposal facility at the north end of Elliott Bay, behind the twin piers. Sediments contaminated with PAHs, PCBs and metals (such as lead) were placed behind a protective berm and capped with asphalt. Monitoring wells were placed around this site, and have proven that no contaminants moved out of the site since then.
In addition, the Port of Seattle built the Bell Harbor Marina on Seattle’s central waterfront in 1994. Some of this area was capped with a layer of clean sediment, and strips of cobble rock were added to enhance the habitat of the area. Monitoring to date shows that contaminants are not moving, and the area is being recolonized by marine life.
Port Gardner Bay
In 1996, the Port of Everett dredged contaminated sediments from the Everett berthing areas, and placed them behind a protective berm on the Everett waterfront. These sediments were contaminated with PAHs and hydrocarbons, mostly from storm water sources. Monitoring and modeling of the site shows no migration of contamination. Because of this successful cleanup, the Port of Everett has now embarked on an ambitious redevelopment project of the historic waterfront, bringing new jobs and development to a once struggling area.
In 1994, the Port of Tacoma dredged contaminated sediments from the Sitcum and Blair Waterways in Tacoma, placing them behind a protective berm in the Milwaukee Waterway. The sediments were then capped and fish habitat at the mouth of the waterway was restored.
Since then, the Port of Tacoma has continued dredging efforts in both waterways, capping contaminated sediments in approved sites and maintaining the health of the waterways.
In 2005, the Port of Bellingham embarked on an ambitious project to clean and redevelop the former Georgia Pacific property. When completed, sediments contaminated by decades of industrial use will be disposed of and the waterfront will feature new business, industrial, and residential development.