State calls for cleanup of harbor property
Local Blaine marine service business Westman Marine has been added to the state’s list of hazardous sites by the state department of ecology (DOE) and given top priority for cleanup.
DOE representative Caitlin Cormier said the business was added to the list in October after soil and water testing, focusing on the marine railway and the boatyard, found heavy metals, petroleum products and solvents at the site. The site was ranked one out of a possible five, the highest priority ranking for cleanup, because of the potential for the pollutants to affect people. “We look at the route it would take to harm someone,” she said. “A number one ranking should not be totally alarming, but there is a potential.”
The state uses the rankings to prioritize how staff resources are spread over the state’s hazardous sites. “The owner is responsible for cleanup but we are here to assist them,” Cormier said. “It takes time to get things cleaned up. Remember, it sometimes takes decades to become the mess they are.”
Westman Marine owner Bob Gudmundson first heard his business was on the list when he got a call from The Northern Light this week asking about his plans for cleanup. He said he had been told to expect a report in two to three weeks when technicians came to take samples in autumn, 2003, and he hasn’t heard anything since. “We knew there was a problem there, but we didn’t know what,” he said.
When Gudmundson inquired of the DOE why he had not been notified of the ranking, he was told the property owner had received the notification. The property owner is the Port of Bellingham.
Port environmental director Mike Stoner said the port had been testing at the site for several years and had notified DOE that marine sediment was likely contaminated with heavy metals from decades of scraping toxic bottom paint from boats. “If you have a boatyard operating for 50 years you have a good possibility.”
Other Blaine properties on the list include a lot owned by planning commissioner Brad O’Neill on the waterfront side of Peace Portal Drive across from the Tesoro station now closed to repair a leaking tank. Petroleum products were found in the soil and it is currently ranked a three, with a ranking of five posing the lowest threat. Also ranked a three is another business at the marina, Blaine Marina Inc. where there has been ongoing efforts to clean up diesel spills since 1990. In Custer, Beacon Battery is ranked a five and is awaiting cleanup.