By: Wendy Harris (108)

Port Unable To Protect Public Safety

By
• Topics: Port of Bellingham,

If the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work?

The port has not had a very good week. Northwest Citizen published an article revealing that the port tampered with cost estimates for alternative marina sites. Also this week, KOMO News released a very disturbing story regarding dangerous and substandard construction at the Bellingham Airport.

On Monday, KOMO News ran a story about unsafe public construction by a contractor who has multiple contracts, including Bellingham Airport and Meridian High School. A whistle-blower, a plumber working at the airport, was fired after going to the contractor and asking for corrections. He then went to KOMO News, which had other experts review the information and confirm it held merit and should be reviewed.

Bellingham Airport was at the top of the list, with improperly secured water and gas pipes overhead at passenger screening, causing danger in an earthquake. Paste used in connecting copper pipes could cause water contamination and did not meet the Uniform Plumbing Code for water quality standards. This placed water from drinking fountains at risk.



Here is what I consider the scandal. City and county inspectors signed off on this substandard work, and it was only after the KOMO news investigation that the airport was re-inspected and determined not to meet seismic safety standards. How many other problems exist that were not detected? (The whistleblower just addressed plumbing issues.)



We are relying upon the port to protect public safety throughout the waterfront cleanup process. What I observed from monitoring the Cornwall landfill interim action, which dumped dioxin-contaminated dirt on the site, was sloppy work and dangerous accidents (i.e., unearthing the buried garbage that the dioxin dirt was intended to cap, incorrectly determining the structural integrity of the site sediment, and reports of dioxin dirt spilling out during transport to the site.)

The airport incident was just another reminder that the port and the city are not adequately protecting public health and safety, and the biggest risk is created at the most toxic and dangerous site, which is the waterfront. Are they really up to the task when they do not allocate sufficient resources to ensure proper oversight and monitoring of work projects? This reflects a lack of emphasis on public protection.

A bad waterfront plan and inadequate oversight of contractor work are strong reasons to dump the current plan and start all over again… as is the repeated attempts by the port and city to game the system and undermine the public process. We need to develop a new plan that incorporates community values as its core policies.

An article was just posted by the Herald. (Ed: Friday eve, Nov 22) The port is denying problems with airport construction. An inspector from the port and another from the general contractor failed to find any problem. The port hired a third party inspector, who did find that the subcontractor failed to comply with project specifications for natural gas piping. The port is quick to point out that this problem still meets code requirements, but if code requirements were adequate, why would the project specifications be higher? The port is not going to waste money on unnecessary safety precautions. We are also told that the problem was only temporary and has now been fixed. That is a little too convenient for my comfort. However, the port deserves credit for hiring a third party inspector, and apparently will be doing so for the second issue involved water quality concerns.

In fact, the port's unwillingness to admit fault makes me wonder what else they are hiding.

About Wendy Harris

Citizen Journalist • Member since Mar 31, 2008

To comment, Log In or Register

Port Unable To Protect Public Safety

By Wendy HarrisOn Nov 22, 2013

If the port can not construct the airport safely, should it be entrusted with dangerous waterfront cleanup work? The port has not had a very good week. Northwest Citizen published [...]

City Council Misled On Waterfront Planning

By Wendy HarrisOn Nov 13, 2013

If you have not read today's Gristle column by Tim Johnson regarding waterfront development plans, please do. http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/currents/opinion/catch_22_power_of_ten. Among the [...]

1 comment, most recent 6 years ago

Gloomy Fate For Waterfront Wildlife

By Wendy HarrisOn Nov 09, 2013

The city is still moving forward with its Waterfront District Sub Area Plan without review and analysis of waterfront wildlife impacts. The public's repeated requests for a supplemental review [...]

3 comments, most recent 6 years ago

COB Staff Manipulates Waterfront Planning for Controversial Overwater Walkway

By Wendy HarrisOn Oct 15, 2013

The City of Bellingham administrative staff continues to manipulate the waterfront planning process to its own advantage. Waterfront planning must be reflected in the waterfront district subarea plan, approved and [...]

2 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Treaty Rights and Public Rights Ignored In Overwater Walkway

By Wendy HarrisOn Oct 08, 2013

I found Council Member Lehman's questions regarding the overwater walkway, during yesterday's COB city council waterfront work session, particularly interesting. The adminstrative staff’s responses reflect a [...]

4 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Status Of Waterfront Analysis For Plants and Animals

By Wendy HarrisOn Oct 02, 2013

There is still no resolution regarding an updated waterfront EIS analysis of plant and animal impacts. I understand that the administrative staff is supposed to be reviewing this question, among [...]

COB Habitat Restoration Master Plan Open House

By Wendy HarrisOn Oct 02, 2013

Learn about the new COB Habitat Restoration Master Plan on Thursday, October3, 2013 from 6 PM to 8 PM, at an open house held at the Best Western Inn, 714 Lakeway Drive, in the [...]

3 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Wildlife Impacts Missing In COB Waterfront District EIS

By Wendy HarrisOn Sep 28, 2013

I remain concerned that the city is moving forward with waterfront development plans without an updated analysis of plant and wildlife impacts. Unless environmental impacts are identified in the EIS, [...]

City Council Waterfront Work Sessions Begin

By Wendy HarrisOn Sep 09, 2013

On Monday, September 9, the Bellingham City Council will hold a work session on waterfront issues from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. A large variety of important issues will be addressed, [...]

Waterfront Planning Before City Council and Port Commission

By Wendy HarrisOn Sep 06, 2013

At the last public hearings before the city council and the port commission, Mayor Linville, Mike Stoner, Environmental Director for the port, and other staff members alleged that the proposed [...]

Bellingham Receives A Wake Up Call

By Wendy HarrisOn Aug 16, 2013

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 [...]

12 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Water Agreement Fails Scrutiny

By Wendy HarrisOn Aug 14, 2013

Something very disturbing happened at yesterday's Bellingham City Council meeting. The city administration asked the Bellingham City Council to approve two memorandums of agreement, one with Lynden and one [...]

4 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Bellingham To Provide Water to Lynden

By Wendy HarrisOn Aug 09, 2013

Some potentially big news is flying under the radar. The city of Bellingham plans to provide water to Lynden in exchange for the right to withdraw city water from Lynden'[...]

3 comments, most recent 7 years ago

Lake Whatcom Promoted As Secret Vacation Get-A-Way

By Wendy HarrisOn Jul 28, 2013

Apparently, the waterfront is not the only area being redeveloped without public comment. In the July 27, 2013 edition of the Vancouver Sun, an upscale “secret” Canadian vacation get-a-way is [...]

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

Meat Packinghouses and Berries: A Bad Combination

By Wendy HarrisOn Jul 20, 2013

A public hearing to rezone county agricultural (AG) land, about 88,000 acres, to permit the slaughter, processing and manufacture of products from animal remains is scheduled for July 23, 2013, at 7PM in [...]

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

Public Hearing on Amendment to the Bellingham SMP

By Wendy HarrisOn Jul 08, 2013

This Thursday, at 7 PM in the City Hall Council Chamber, the City Planning Commission meeting includes a public hearing on a proposal to amend the city Shoreline Master Program (SMP). [...]

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

City Moves Forward With ASB Interim Trail Before Waterfront Plan Approval

By Wendy HarrisOn Jul 05, 2013

I am glad that I reviewed the city's public notice website tonight. The city just submitted a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit and scheduled a public hearing on July 16, 2012 before [...]

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

Noise Issue Reflects Larger City Infill Problems

By Wendy HarrisOn Jun 28, 2013

On Monday, the City Council will be examining public noise disturbance from construction and industrial activities and whether the city noise ordinance should be revised. The existing city code is [...]

1 comment, most recent 7 years ago

County Attempting To Reduce Stormwater Standards in Birch Bay UGA

By Wendy HarrisOn Jun 25, 2013

After refusing to update Lake Whatcom watershed stormwater standards, the County has set a new challenge for itself… decreasing stormwater standards that are otherwise applicable. And they picked another [...]

County Council Fails To Update Stormwater Standards For Lake Whatcom

By Wendy HarrisOn Jun 24, 2013

Last week, the County Council refused to update the stormwater regulations for Lake Whatcom. The current stormwater standards are based on outdated requirements from the Department of Ecology’s ([...]