Puget SoundCorps crews tackle toxic debris in Kitsap County

Photo of someone using a chainsaw to cut up an old boat engine.
Puget SoundCorps crewmember cuts up a hunk of old boat engine that washed up years ago on Nick’s Lagoon. Photo: Toni Droscher / DNR

Neither rain, nor winds, nor high tides could dampen the enthusiasm of DNR’s Puget SoundCorps crew’s tackling a major cleanup of  large, derelict debris—about 15 tons of it—from the beach next to Nick’s Lagoon County Park. The crews started working on the project this week and will be spending the next few weeks at the park located in Seabeck.

Some of the debris appears to be the remnants of an old marine railway built of creosote-treated timbers, which continue to leach toxic chemicals into the environment years after their useful lifespan ends. Two of the structures are about 40-feet long by 12-feet wide by 5-feet high.

Other large debris includes an old, barely recognizable vessel with a rusted engine block, an old steel float, a concrete float (yes, concrete floats when it encapsulates foam), old tires, and other vestiges of timbers from a railroad bed.

“This is an exacting demolition job,” says Kristian Tollefson, DNR restoration specialist and project manager. “It will be a fairly technical disassembly. The crews will need to go slowly and be very meticulous about the work.”

Because you don’t just start cutting into creosote-treated debris without taking proper safety precautions—for people and the environment. Crews wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPEs). They also lay down thick plastic sheeting under where they are cutting to capture the sawdust from the chainsaw work. This helps prevent the toxic material from entering the aquatic habitat.

“Our crews are trained to handle creosote-treated debris,” Tollefson added. “This is not stuff that the average person should attempt to handle.”

The teams are piling the cut-up debris on thick plastic above the high tideline and, in January, the debris will be transferred by barge to a special landfill in eastern Washington.

Each of the two Puget SoundCorps crews consists of a crew supervisor and four to five crewmembers. Both of the supervisors and many of this particular crew are returning veterans. SoundCorps crews also include young people age 18 to 35.

Funding for the Nick’s Lagoon cleanup comes from Ecology’s Model Toxics Control Act.

Meanwhile, up in northern Kitsap Peninsula

The restoration project near Seabeck on Hood Canal is a partnership with DNR and Kitsap County Parks and is the continuation of cleanup projects that Puget SoundCorps crews started last spring. Now and in the coming weeks, another SoundCorps crew is removing debris from Kitsap county beaches at Shine Tidelands State Park, Tarboo Bay, Norwegian Point County Park, Salsbury Point County Park, and Coon Bay.

About the Puget SoundCorps

Puget SoundCorps is part of the broader Washington Conservation Corps program administered by Washington Department of Ecology in partnership with the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Puget SoundCorps crews work on projects that help restore and protect water quality in Puget Sound. The Washington Conservation Corps is supported through grant funding and education awards provided by AmeriCorps.

More about the Nick’s Lagoon project:

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