A vestige of West Bay’s working waterfront began to disappear this week, one creosote-soaked piling at a time.
By mid-March some 400 derelict pilings and 7,000 square-feet of abandoned docks and piers that represented the last reminders of a lower Budd Inlet shoreline once lined with lumber and plywood mills will be removed and shipped to the Roosevelt Landfill in Klickitat County.
It marks the latest step in a slow but steady transformation of West Bay Drive in Olympia from an industrial corridor to a collection of parks, office buildings and shoreline property undergoing hazardous waste cleanup and redevelopment.
The piling and dock removal project stretches across 1.2 miles of shoreline in lower Budd Inlet. It is spearheaded by the state Department of Natural Resources and also features four properties owned by the Port of Olympia, West Bay Reliable, the Delta Illahee
Limited Partnership and the Squaxin Island Tribe.
A three-acre site donated to the tribe from a family estate is at the north end of the project boundary and includes 224 pilings.
“We saw this as an opportunity to restore these tidelands by taking out the pilings that are leaching pollutants into Budd Inlet,” said Andy Whitener, natural resources director the Squaxin Island Tribe. “There is a lot of work to be done in Budd Inlet to restore its ecological function. Getting these pilings out of here is a good start.”
The 7,000 square feet of docks and piers is about all that’s left of the old Delson Lumber Company mill owned by the Smyth family and redeveloped into Smyth Landing.
Another 175 pilings will be removed from the West Bay Reliable site south along Port of Olympia property stretching all the way to the Fourth Avenue Bridge.
The $278,000 project is funded from the $37 million DNR received from the Jobs Now Act approved by the 2012 state Legislature.
“The Budd Inlet creosote project is a great example of how the Jobs Now Act is putting the private sector to work and helping to clean up Puget Sound,” state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark said.
Creosote is a wood preservative used for more than 100 years to treat telephone poles, railroad ties, piers, docks and pilings. It does a great job of preserving wood, but it also contains more than 300 chemicals, many of them harmful to fish and wildlife, and humans.
For instance, studies show that herring eggs exposed to creosote have high mortality rates. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in creosote have been shown to stunt the growth and alter the immune systems of juvenile salmon.
DNR began a creosote piling and beach debris removal program in 2004. The program was expanded in 2007 when then-Gov. Chris Gregoire launched a campaign to cleanup and restore Puget Sound by 2020.
Getting the creosote pilings, piers and docks out of Puget Sound was named a high priority.
Since 2004, more than 15,000 tons of creosote-soaked pilings and logs washed up on beaches have been removed from the environment, along with 223,000 square-feet of docks, piers and other over water structures, according to a DNR fact sheet.
The goal is to remove another 3,000 treated pilings by 2017, including those in lower Budd Inlet.
The contractor for the Budd Inlet project is Blackwater Marine of Kirkland. The work takes place from a barge equipped with a large vibrating hammer used to loosen the pilings embedded in the sediments. Once loosened, the pilings are wrapped with cable and a crane pulls them out of the water. They are set down on the barge, then unloaded shore-side for shipment to the landfill.
The pilings average 45-50 feet long with about half the pile buried in the tidelands, DNR project manager Jordanna Black explained.
Some of the best public viewing of the operation begins next week, including Feb. 11-15 from West Bay Park and Feb. 15-March 10 from a parking lot and viewing platform at the north end of the project site across West Bay Drive from Smyth Landing. The work depends on tidal conditions capable of floating the barge.