Restoration through perspiration: Hard-working Puget SoundCorps crews wrap up two-year creosote-debris removal project

Question: What weighs 240 tons, is covered in tar, and no longer threatens the health of more than a dozen beaches in Northern Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca?

Answer: Toxic creosote-treated wood debris removed from these beaches in the past two years.

Lopez Island Creosote Clean Up
Crews from WCC Puget Sound Corps carry creosote-treated wood debris to a site for helicopter removal November 2011. Photo: Lisa Kaufman/DNR

Thanks to the hard work of crews from the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) Puget SoundCorps Program and contractors, these beaches are now cleaner and healthier (with the toxic debris now safely stored in a special landfill in eastern Washington).

For the past two years, WCC Puget SoundCorps crews battled wind, rain, cold, heat, and challenging terrain to help restore beaches in five counties in northern Puget Sound. Before the start of nearly every  project,  trained crews canvass a beach to identify and mark the debris, which is often interspersed among non-toxic debris. Occasionally, an alert citizen will report treated-wood debris to us.

creosote removal
DNR will use helicopters to remove creosote debris from particularly senstive habitats, such as marshes and lagoons. Photo: David Roberts/DNR.

Some cleanups can be completed just by hand-hauling the debris to a dumpster. But on a few projects, it’s necessary to bring in the heavy equipment, which can come by land, sea, or air. For example, we’ll often use helicopters to remove debris from particularly sensitive habitats, such as marshes or lagoons.

Funding for the projects came from the Washington Department of Ecology’s Model Toxics Control Account and the 2012 Jobs Now Act legislation.

Creosote debris washes up on beaches throughout Puget Sound. As old docks and structures deteriorate, they can break apart and float out into the current, often washing up on shorelines. Much of this material has been treated with creosote, a combination of hundreds of chemicals, including polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals are toxic to marine life and to people. DNR is committed to removing toxic debris from state-owned aquatic lands.

More details about the projects are in DNR’s report, “Beach Creosote Cleanup in Puget Sound: 2011-2013 Final Report.”

View photos from the projects.

Learn more about DNR’s Creosote Removal Program.

Learn more about the WCC Puget SoundCorps Program, which is managed by the Washington Department of Ecology.

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