Part of me wants to say: Whats taken so long? Widespread dioxin contamination was first discovered on the Olympia waterfront a full six years ago during sediment sampling conducted by the Port of Olympia in advance of a scheduled dredging project for the navigation channel and marine terminal shipping berths at the port docks.
Another part of me wants to say: Finally, some progress toward the eventual cleanup of dioxin-tainted sediments.
The term dioxin refers to a family of chemical compounds that persist and accumulate in the environment, and are toxic to all life. Theyre generated by industrial processes, wood-burning, vehicle exhaust even cigarette smoke. Dioxins are unwanted, but they are everywhere.
Earlier this week, a contractor hired by the Port of Olympia grabbed samples from zero to 16 feet deep in the sediments all around the port peninsula, more than 100 samples in all to test for dioxin and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) another ubiquitous, toxic chemical that persists in the environment.
Now those samples are off to the laboratory for testing, part of a $2 million project designed to move closer to a decision on how best to restore health to the lower Budd Inlet marine ecosystem.
The port took on the project as part of an agreed order with the state Department of Ecology, first signed in 2008 and amended for the latest work in January 2012.
Notice how time moves slowly on complex environmental cleanups, especially in the midst of an economic recession?
But port officials cant afford for the status quo to drag on much longer. Its been 30 years since that last significant dredging work to accommodate cargo ship traffic in lower Budd Inlet. Sediments flowing down the Deschutes River into Capitol Lake and on into lower Budd Inlet have reduced water depths in the navigation channel. It makes it anywhere from difficult to impossible for some cargo ships to call on the port.
Clearly, the port has a vested economic interest in reviving the dredging project that was derailed six years ago. But port officials also say its the right thing to do for environmental reasons.
Nobody else is going to do this, Port Executive Director Ed Galligan said Friday in an interview at the port office near the marine terminals, an office all but dwarfed these days by the hustle and bustle in the cargo yard and on the docks. The good news is: Its getting done.
What to do with the test results will be the tricky part. Ecology must decide how much of the cleanup is the responsibility of the modern-day port and how much is due to past industrial practices on the port peninsula, including the former Cascade Pole wood-preserving plant at the tip of the port peninsula.
Complicating the job of assigning cleanup duties are the more than 30 stormwater outfalls and small streams that flow into lower Budd Inlet from Olympias east side and west side and downtown area. All those water discharges could be past and present conduits for pollution.
Oh, one other thing: Theres no precise cleanup standard yet for marine sediments fouled by dioxin.
Stay tuned. Budd Inlet dioxin cleanup is about to get more interesting.
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Several South Sound AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteers pounded the pavement Friday on behalf of three public service programs that can save people money, and relieve stress, too.
They placed bilingual flyers and cards at more than 100 locations, including libraries, government and non-profit offices to alert the public about ways to stretch their household budgets and find support in these tough economic times. They include:
* Familywize, a free prescription discount card that can save an uninsured or under-insured consumer an average of $20 per prescription. Just present the card to participating pharmacists to receive a discount. For more information, visit www.familywize.org.
The little-known program in partnership with United Way has saved participants more than $243,000 the past three years in Thurston County alone, noted Isaac Wanitz, a VISTA volunteer coordinator at United Way of Thurston County.
* A reminder to employees who earned between $1 and $50,270 last year that they may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit when they file their taxes 2012 income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service. Call 211 for free help filing a federal tax return, or search for free tax preparation at www.irs.gov.
* Get connected to other community resources by dialing 211. Help is available in a number of areas, including senior and disability resources, housing services, food and clothing, rent and utility assistance, transportation, health care and counseling and youth and family services. You can even find information on how to volunteer.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 email@example.com