June 2006 Feature: Wyckoff/Eagle Harbor: A Collaborative Cleanup and Restoration Effort
Three divisions within NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R), including the Coastal Protection and Restoration Division, Pribilof Project Office, and Hazardous Materials Response Division, have been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean and restore the Wyckoff Company/Eagle Harbor Superfund site in Washington. Most recently, OR&R provided equipment and expert staff to address a new source of contamination in the Harbor.
Standing along the waters of Puget Sound's Eagle Harbor, you have a stunning view of downtown Seattle, Mount Rainier, the Cascades across the Sound to the East, and the Olympic Mountains to the West. Until the mid-1990s, you could also see an oily sheen on the Harbor's waters and black chemicals seeping onto its beaches.
Over eighty years of wood treatment at the Wyckoff Company facility, combined with shipyard operations, had turned the Harbor into a "cesspool" of chemical contamination. In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the Wyckoff Company/Eagle Harbor site (Wyckoff site) on its Superfund list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup.
NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) has been participating in the cleanup and restoration of the Wyckoff site since its listing as a Superfund site, to ensure that remediation protects the marine resources and habitat in Puget Sound.
As a natural resource trustee under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), OR&R scientists and a multidisciplinary team of technical experts participate in the remedial process, to ensure that selected remedies are protective and that appropriate measures are implemented to restore resources. This team helps the EPA and other cleanup and trustee agencies to accurately evaluate contaminated coastal sites, quantify injury to aquatic organisms and the health risk to people who eat seafood or use the coastal area, and provide recommendations to remedy such risks and injuries. OR&R involvement leads to more environmentally protective remediation of hazardous waste sites, resulting in cleaner coastal habitats and healthier commercial and recreational fish stocks.
OR&R scientists and engineers provide a variety of important services to protect and restore coastal resources. They provide information to the EPA about sensitive habitats, fish, and other species that live, spawn, and feed in an affected area. NOAA staff work with the EPA to describe, predict, and measure the impact of contaminants and to design scientifically sound sampling strategies to describe the nature and extent of contamination and potential adverse effects. NOAA efforts go beyond providing technical expertise and solutions--OR&R scientists frequently provide hands-on support in the field, to evaluate risk and design effective remedial and restoration strategies. OR&R also develops and provides tools and resources needed to assess environmental damage and make wise resource decisions.
In the case of the Wyckoff site, staff from OR&R's Coastal Protection and Restoration Division (CPRD) review biological and engineering plans and studies prepared by the EPA to address the site. An engineer from the CPRD's Pribilof Project Office (PPO) has been providing engineering support on many of these reviews for the past year. Recently, the PPO offered the EPA the use of valuable tools needed to address a previously unknown contamination source at the site.
As part of the cleanup at the Wyckoff site, the EPA constructed an underground wall around the former Wyckoff wood treatment facility to contain soil and groundwater contaminated with the wood treatment chemical, creosote. One portion of the site outside this enclosure, originally thought to be clean, had been restored as intertidal habitat. Recently, however, a sheen of chemicals has been spotted along the Wyckoff site beach, indicating a previously unknown contamination source.
Collecting soil samples is critical to locating a contaminant source, and, in the case of the Wyckoff site, required special equipment that could travel over the soft sand and mud in the intertidal zone. NOAA owns and operates such a piece of equipment—a sampling unit known as a "Geoprobe." The Geoprobe is capable of driving a 2-1/8 inch sample coring tool to depths of 20 feet or more, extracting 1.5-inch diameter, 4-foot long soil core samples. To address the newly discovered contamination source at the Wyckoff site and begin cleaning and restoration efforts, scientists and engineers from CPRD, PPO, and OR&R’s Hazardous Materials Response Division offered to work with EPA contractors to use the Geoprobe to collect soil samples.
Before soil sampling can occur, sampling locations must be carefully identified to ensure that the entire site is thoroughly investigated and the contamination source can be identified. NOAA owns and operates highly precise (Trimble 5700 Real Time Kinematic) global positioning system (GPS) equipment for surveying purposes and offered the use of this equipment to assist the EPA in staking out sampling locations.
After the EPA prepared a sampling and analysis plan, PPO transported the GPS equipment and the Geoprobe to the site. PPO staff used the GPS surveying equipment to conduct an initial survey of the site, to stake out over 100 proposed sample locations along the beach in approximately four hours. They were then able to use this newly collected data to create a detailed contour model for the beach and intertidal zone.
Collecting the soil samples using the Geoprobe was truly a team effort. The EPA's contractor, who was experienced in using the Geoprobe, did the drilling and NOAA staff transported the core samples to an EPA contractor's sample collection team. This team then cut open plastic core sleeves and packaged the soil, according to depth interval, into jars to send to an EPA lab in Manchester, Washington for analysis.
When the soil analyses are combined with the contour map produced by NOAA staff, it may be possible to pinpoint the contamination source and quantify is the severity of contamination. This information will help NOAA and the EPA decide how to address the chemicals leaking from Harbor sediments, to prevent further injury and restore Puget Sound habitats.
The use of NOAA equipment and staff will help the EPA to characterize the nature of the Wyckoff site, while saving scarce EPA funding that would be required to rent equipment and fully staff the sampling effort. The extra NOAA staff and the ability of the Geoprobe to move on the soft beach sand and mud without getting stuck allowed the sampling to be completed a week ahead of schedule. Additionally, a cross section of OR&R staff were able to participate in the process, learning valuable skills that they can translate and apply to other CERCLA response and restoration projects.
The efforts at the Wyckoff Company/Eagle Harbor Superfund site are just one example of an NOS program involved in restoring resources by providing necessary data, science, staff, and tools. Through collaborative efforts such as those at Eagle Harbor, NOS is helping NOAA and the EPA to protect and restore valuable natural resources and reduce risk to human health.
PPO staff used the GPS surveying equipment to conduct an initial survey of the site, to stake out over 100 proposed sample locations...
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