Up, up, and away! Helicopter, DNR, and ground crews help rid Jefferson County beach of creosote debris

Helicopter hauls load of creosote-treated debris.
A helicopter gets ready to set down a load of creosote-treated wood debris at the staging area on Indian Island. Photo: Toni Droscher/DNR

What’s the best, safest, and most low-impact way to remove tons of creosote-treated debris and other potentially harmful trash from a beach? A helicopter, of course!

On April 10, DNR staff, Washington Conservation Corps members, and HiLine Helicopters, Inc. participated in a carefully choreographed effort to gather up an estimated 50 tons of creosote debris from the beach, lagoon, and marsh at Indian Island County Park in Jefferson County.

Veteran helicopter pilot Anthony Reece, owner of HiLine Helicopters, skillfully plucked the debris from the beach, and placed the material—with pinpoint accuracy—either directly into a dumpster or onto the staging area if the material was too big for the dumpster. Reece’s skill and experience firmly upholds DNR’s commitment to safety first.

DNR staff and WCC crews stacking creosote debris at staging area.
WCC crewmembers carefully place oversized creosote-treated debris under the guidance of helicopter pilot Anthony Reece (at right, green jacket). Photo: Toni Droscher/DNR

Following the helicopter operation, Port Hadlock-based Stewart Excavating will cut up the longer pieces into 8-ft lengths to place in the dumpsters. Another firm will haul the material to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County.

For several days prior to the helicopter operation, staff, crews, and volunteers from Jefferson County Beach Watchers collected the trash and debris, placing it in piles with stakes that would be visible to the helicopter operators.

According to Lisa Kaufman, DNR restoration manager and organizer of the cleanup, creosote debris gets trapped in the lagoon at Indian Island County Park during storms and high tides. When the tide goes out, the material remains and continues to leach into the habitat that serves as home to birds and other marine life.

Why the focus on creosote-treated debris?
For at least a century, creosote was used as a wood preservative to treat telephone poles, railroad ties, piers, docks, pilings, and floats. Creosote contains hundreds of chemicals, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are toxic to marine life and to people. When exposed to warm temperatures and sunlight, these chemicals become even more toxic and leach from the wood into the surrounding environment.

To help protect and restore Puget Sound, DNR is leading the effort to remove creosote-treated debris, derelict pilings, and docks from Puget Sound marine and estuarine waters.

Learn more about DNR’s creosote removal program.

The cost of the cleanup at Indian Island will range from $20,000-$30,000. Funding comes from the Washington State Department of Ecology and the state’s voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

View more photos of the creosote removal project.

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