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Poisoning the Public - A treacherous legacy

According to the Bellingham Herald, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has recently approved leaving tons of mercury buried in Bellingham Bay. The documents are not yet readily available at the DNR’s website. Here’s the Port’s Press Release.

The Herald article states that the deal requires the Port to monitor the site for the “next 30 years to make sure no mercury is escaping into the environment”. However, everyone knows that mercury will be continually escaping, but claim that the rate will be equal to or less than the background levels coming down the Nooksack River. No one has explained why levels are so high in the Nooksack.

G-P admits to having put 20 tons of mercury into the bay, but other studies indicate that discharges from such facilities send as much as twenty times as much mercury to the air as to the water. Of course, those atmospheric discharges gradually return downstream. Together with the company’s eggregious county-wide dumping, it is no surprise that background levels are high enough to mask releases from the Whatcom Waterway muck.

Based upon industry standard mercury usage per ton of product produced in similar facilities, Georgia-Pacific probably used more than 600 tons of mercury during their tenure on Bellingham Bay. Not one agency has ever required G-P to account for the final disposition of those tons. Incidentally, Whatcom County has a higher than normal incidence of chronic wasting health effects associated with mercury exposure. Not one agency has ever conducted a health study of the area.

Similarly, our three-county air quality authority, NWAir (Now run by former Bellingham Mayor Mark Asmundson), conducted a three year air quality study in downtown Bellingham during the last years of G-P’s operation. Guess what they never once tested for - mercury!

Want to see why you ought to be concerned? (8.9MB .mov)

By Way of Comparison - A question of scale

A 3” x 12” shiny spot of mercury found in Yakima has landed a child in the hospital and triggered a sophisticated clean-up.

Also, the state is intent on collecting mercury by the tenth of a gram.

One wonders what the administrators responsible for the Whatcom Waterway cover-up plan would do if they discovered a flask or two of mercury dumped on their property or in their home. Think they’d just cover it up with dirt or sweep it under the rug? Hmm. I kinda doubt it.

About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]