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Bellingham Receives A Wake Up Call

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Here is what is posted on the City of Bellingham's website:

A sulfur-like odor being detected near shore areas is believed to be tidal-related. The odor was first reported to 9-1-1 this morning resulting in the response of the crew from the Harris Avenue to investigate. The crew could detect the odor, confirmed that it did not present a hazard, and ultimately linked the odor to organic decomposition in connection with the morning low tide and present atmospheric conditions.

With the return of the low tide this evening, calls into 9-1-1 are picking up for the same sulfur-like smell near coastal areas. Citizens are encouraged to not call 9-1-1 with questions or concerns about the odor unless they believe they are experiencing a natural gas emergency

Is this not a wake-up regarding our poor stewardship of Bellingham Bay?

Why has the city failed to include an updated analysis of plant and animal impacts in the last three Waterfront EIS reviews that were issued? We are killing the environment that sustains us, and yet the city and port care more about putting in a marina, increasing boat traffic and the density of shoreline development than it does about protecting aquatic health and habitat connectivity.

It is insanity, in the face of increasing evidence of the crisis regarding global warming and loss of biodiversity, to continue with business as usual. We need to stop and seriously reconsider our priorities and plans for the Bellingham waterfront, so that greater emphasis can be placed on ecological health.

About Wendy Harris

Contributor • Member since Mar 31, 2008

Comments by Readers

Tip Johnson

Aug 16, 2013

This is from a slurry of suspended solids composed of fugitive paper pulp and bark from log booming.  This has been identified as a problem in the ‘inner harbor’since the UW Oceanographic study of the ‘60s and is BOD load so large that it remains anaerobic, creating the strong smell of hydrogen sulfide.

It has been completely ignored in the so-called “clean-up” but is probably also contaminated with dioxins since the pulp was chlorinated.

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Clayton Petree

Aug 16, 2013

That foul smell was all the way up by the hospital! Not as strong as when the company in Kent that makes the NG smell had a leak but I thought it was a local NG leak as well.

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Hue Beattie

Aug 16, 2013

I called the gas company’s leak number. it was strong up at 21st & McKenzie last evening.

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Wendy Harris

Aug 16, 2013

Tip, could you define “BOD”?  I know that the smell from the sewer treatment plant run-off into the Bay by Marine Park has gotten worse each year, with increased growth of weird, murky, slimly stuff. The city thinks it will engineer its way out of all water quality concerns, whether in the Bay or the Lake. “Once the new multi-million dollar treatment plant is up and running,everything will be A-OK.”  We need to protect all the ecological functions of fresh water and marine water bodies to restore the environment.

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Dick Conoboy

Aug 16, 2013

“BOD is the biological oxygen demand in water. Basically it’s the rate at which oxygen is used in water by all of the microbes living in it. People at wastewater treatment plants use it as a basis of defining how well the water is being treated and whether or not they need to add more germs to do the job of treating the water.”

I got this from the web so it has to be so.

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Tip Johnson

Aug 17, 2013

http://www.skookum.us/fowcweb/eddies.htm

The 1966 report on the Oceanographic study of the Bellingham-Samish estuary showed that currents concentrate in the ‘inner harbor’ area.

The smell of hydrogen sulfide that occurs at low tide is the result of years of accumulated organic material that resides anaerobically in the harbor gyre.

This material consists of decades of accumulated bark from log booming, plus suspended paper pulp from G-P’s clarifier which was intentionally undersized and installed with a cheat pipe so suspended solids would go away instead of creating a collection and disposal problem.

Now there remains a rotting slurry of cellulose covering the bottom of the bay.  Not only does it stink unnaturally at low tide.  It is probably also an ignored dioxin sink.

It usually only smells this bad in the summer when water temps are higher than normal.

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Dick Conoboy

Aug 17, 2013

Yes, in summer, coinciding with the public’s desire to enjoy the soon-to-be newly created Boulevard beach.  Moreover, I am baffled that people can sit outdoors at Woods and sip a latte in the midst of that stench.  But since the BNSF will probably double track along Boulevard Park to feed the gaping maw of the coal terminal, there likely won’t be much park left.  We can leave it to the train engineers to complain about the odor.

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Wendy Harris

Aug 17, 2013

Tip, why is this slurry not covered over by sediment deposits from the Nooksack river?  Has there been some port dredging action that is stirring this up?

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Marian Beddill

Aug 17, 2013

Wendy;
The topic of the stuff on the harbor floor was discussed when the shift from the paper plant to public ownership was done.
The sediment from the Nooksack is some distance away, so not much comes that far. Maybe I can post a map.
Public proposals for cleanup at the time, were talking about how to do the cleanup - especially in the harbor channel, which might need dredging to serve the larger ships. Among the ideas were lifting sediment onto barges, or moving it in various ways by various means to various places.
The last “conclusions” were to let it be. And here we are today. (Someone with better details may jump in.)

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Scott Wicklund

Aug 18, 2013

A real pity the Port cannot apply their skills at removing oxygen to the BOD in the Harbor.  They have been very successful taking all the oxygen out of the “conversation” that is certain.

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Tip Johnson

Aug 18, 2013

@Wendy,
The material is neutrally buoyant.  If floats in a layer above the bottom so glacial flour from the Nooksack (colloidal rock) passes through and settles beneath it.  I suspect the layer of suspended solids is several feet thick over much of the ‘inner harbor’ gyre.  You can observe the particles directly at extreme low tides anywhere from the north end of Boulevard Park to Squalicum Beach. These low low tides in summer are when the odor is most noticeable, but it is starving the bay of oxygen year round.  And then there are the potential dioxins.  No one has bothered to check, instead actively avoiding it for years, as with the 500 tons of missing mercury.

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Scott Wicklund

Aug 19, 2013

Is any independent public interest group or individual reviewing the core test reports from the ongoing drill sampling of the Harbor by DOE?  If nothing is going to be done to clean up the mess maybe just pull the plug on the barge?  Maybe it is “proprietary information.”

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