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Department of Ecology issues notice to 520 contractor for sediment disturbance in Kenmore | UPDATED
Signs on the shore of Log Boom Park last summer notified residents of dioxins testing in the waters of Lake Washington near the park. The results of those tests are expected to be made public this month, according to Kenmore city officials. It is not the first time the waters have been tested for dangerous chemicals. In 1996 testing was conducted in relation to proposed dredging of the Kenmore Navigation Channel. Dioxins were found at Harbour Village Marina in 2011 as a part of a dredging application. But regardless of the results of the current tests, the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) reminds residents that dioxins adhere to sediment particles and do not affect the water column.
The DOE issued a Notice of Violation for sediment disturbance to Kiewit/General/Manson (KGM) tugboats on Dec. 28. The notice is the state’s first acknowledgement that the contractor building anchors for the new 520 bridge is stirring up sediment. If tests reveal that the sediment is contaminated there could be adverse effects for those who recreate on Kenmore's shoreline.
The notice gives KGM the opportunity to correct the violation and “prevent future sediment disturbances.” It acknowledges that the company is in violation of water pollution control laws.
“This particular case is unusual because the water movement stems from vessel operations,” said DOE spokesman Larry Altose.
Turbidity can be natural, such as when storms cause larger waves, currents or stream flows. State water quality standards take background turbidity into account. It is uncommon for tugboats' or barges' turbidity to cause environmental issues, said Altose.
KGM is using a portion of Kenmore Yard, at 6423 N.E. 175th St., as a supplemental construction site for preparation and maintenance, component construction and barge transportation to the 520 bridge.
“Kiewit/General/Manson, a joint venture is dedicated to maintaining the highest environmental compliance standards,” said Kiewit spokesman Tom Janssen in an email to the Reporter. “In Kenmore, to minimize the disturbance of sediment, we operate in designated areas and use the shallowest-draft tug available that can safely maneuver the barge/vessel being towed/pushed.”
KGM is now required to file a report within 30 days telling the DOE what steps they have done and will take to control such waste or pollution. The DOE will then inform KGM of the next steps.
“We are carefully reviewing the recent notification from the Department of Ecology and examining our operations in Kenmore,” said Janssen. “We will respond to the Department of Ecology as they have directed.”
If the DOE has to take further action it could result in a maximum of a $10,000 fine for each confirmed violation.
“But in this case we first must review KGM’s response,” said Altose. “Steps after that can range from no action needed to a range of possible actions, including an informal directive, an order or a penalty.”
The notice also states that the DOE has documented two occasions when KGM tugboats have caused visible sediment disturbances in the Kenmore Navigation Channel.
“On March 21, 2012, the Manson tugboat Nancy M., while moving a barge strayed outside the navigation channel, caused visible sediment disturbance in front of Kenmore Air and Northlake Marina,” the notice states. “In August of 2012 the Manson tugboat Harry M., while moving a barge towards the entrance of the channel, caused visible sediment disturbance.”
It continues, outlining a third possible disturbance of sediment in November near Kenmore Air.
Prior to the start of the 520 bridge project, an Environmental Impact Study projected that KGM’s work will result in an average of approximately one barge trip per day and that the use of Kenmore Yard site would not result in significant effects on the ecosystem.
Officials with the City of Kenmore began discussions with the Washington State Department of Transportation, KGM and local businesses on the issue of the tugboat and barge traffic in the navigation channel in April. During that time, city officials sent a letter to the project director for the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and Landings Project with the Washington State Department of Transportation expressing their concerns. In the letter, sent in July, the city cites concerns on behalf of water dependent businesses and trips from unspecified sources amounting to more than one trip per day. On one occasion in April, there were seven trips recorded in one day.
The city did not confirm whether that issue was resolved.
The EIS also stated that the depths of the Kenmore Navigation Channel are sufficient.
The city and the DOE have spent $130,000 for the current study.
Residents use the water at Log Boom Park and the surrounding Kenmore portion of Lake Washington for everything from swimming to fishing.
The Kenmore Industrial Park, where Kenmore Yard is located, was once the site of the 45 acre Bayside Disposal Dump and landfill. Tests have confirmed that there are no polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, a toxic environmental contaminant) at the site, according to officials. But test samples were recently taken from lake and river sediments on all three sides of the Kenmore Industrial Park. Those test results are expected back this month.
The DOE rated it among the highest contaminated sites in the state 11 years ago.
Kenmore resident Janet Hays has noticed and documented KGM moving its barges through the channel at night. Many think it is to make it more difficult for people to see the water being churned up.
She has documented the turbidity and posted videos of the barges moving through the channel on YouTube through an account named “crazyhazedaze.”
“Since they (KGM) have been having issues with the turbidity now they have started doing the barging at night,” said Hays during the Dec. 13 KAN meeting. “… You’ll see a light at midnight shining in your bedroom window, so you’ll get up and it is a tug trying to find its way in.”
But Janssen said the company has not changed any of its scheduling.
“Kiewit/General/Manson’s navigation schedule within the Kenmore Channel has not been altered. We are operating in accordance with Coast Guard rules and regulations,” said Janssen. “As with other businesses in the channel, work occurs both day and night to achieve our project schedule. Because the winter months have fewer daylight hours, we operate additional hours in darkness. However, the majority of our vessel movements occur during daylight hours.”
The issues with the turbidity predate the 520 project. Hays has 59 videos on YouTube, with 10 of them being posted since the 520 bridge construction began. Some of the oldest videos date back as far as four years ago. The bridge construction is expected to continue in Kenmore through 2014.
Hays points out that there has been no water testing results from the turbidity but that tests were taken in still water.
But the issue with the turbidity is not just with the tugboats and barges coming through the channel. The sediment disturbance also has to do with illegal maneuvers, such as turning around in the channel, she said.
The Kenmore Action Network, a citizen watchdog group, hired environmental scientist and consultant Greg Wingard to aid in their investigation of the contamination. Wingard, along with other KAN officials, plan to meet with the DOE to discuss the test results on Jan. 22.
The KAN meeting, originally scheduled for Jan. 16, was moved to 7 p.m., Jan. 24 at Kenmore City Hall so KAN officials can inform Kenmore residents of the results of the tests and the meeting with the DOE. The public is invited to attend the KAN meeting.
Kenmore Mayor David Baker told KAN members during its December meeting that the state’s $1 billion shortfall and resulting budget cuts could severely impact cleanup efforts in the area.
“If something is found it is going to have to be cleaned up,” said Baker. “The state Legislature is looking at robbing the State Model Toxics Control Act fund, which would directly affect any cleanup here.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s Seattle District Dredged Materials Management Office implements the interagency Dredged Material Management Program in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington state departments of Ecology and Natural Resources. These four agencies collaboratively work to manage and regulate disposal of dredged material from dredging projects in Washington state.