A crew working for the state Department of Natural Resources is back out on West Seattle beaches this week, cleaning up creosote – a toxic threat you might not even recognize as you walk along beaches strewn with old pilings containing literally tons of the substance long used as a wood preservative.
We were invited to photograph a cleanup site just north of the Fauntleroy ferry dock on Wednesday when state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz was visiting the crew. While the beachfront property there is privately owned, part of the tidelands belong to the state, which obtained access agreements with dozens of property owners to facilitate this part of the cleanup.
Crew members are cutting up creosote-contaminated wood and loading it on board this vessel:
From there it’s taken across Puget Sound to Manchester in Kitsap County, and transported from there to a landfill. Before our visit, they had already removed 20 tons of contaminated wood – DNR’s aquatics restoration manager Christopher Robertson explained that every linear foot of a log like this could contain a gallon of liquid creosote, which he described as “very nasty stuff.”
You’ve heard that toxins in the water is one of the biggest threats to Puget Sound orcas. That makes this removal a boon to them, as well as to the salmon they need to survive. Part of Commissioner Franz’s reason for visiting is to highlight her budget request for the coming year, to better fund this and other projects vital to protecting the state’s environment.
Franz would like to double the amount of creosote that the state can remove. Right now, this project only has access to one six-person crew, two weeks a month; ideally, Robertson and fellow aquatics restoration manager Monica Shoemaker told us, they could keep half a dozen crews and a fleet of boats busy.
By the way, while on the beach, we learned about a new app that you can use to help if you spot debris on the beach – like this damaged float that had appeared sometime within the previous day:
It’s a threat to marine wildlife and birds because it contains styrofoam that looks to them like yummy fish eggs:
You can report something like this via the MyCoast app, in which our state is a participant – find out about it here. Besides “large marine debris,” derelict vessels are another category of reporting for which you can use MyCoast. Back to the creosote removal:
This isn’t new – the state’s been doing it for more than a decade. But unfortunately it’s the kind of work that has to be repeated – there’s so much creosote out there, any beach is vulnerable to something more washing up. Fauntleroy is just one of many beaches where the state is doing this work.