Port bids ‘adieu’ to creosote

Port of Poulsbo workers maneuver booms of creosote logs into place for state Department of Natural Resource workers to remove. The state is footing the bill for the project. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Port of Poulsbo workers maneuver booms of creosote logs into place for state Department of Natural Resource workers to remove. The state is footing the bill for the project.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO – The Port of Poulsbo had a cleanly helping hand from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) this week. For three days beginning Wednesday a DNR crew removed creosote pilings from the bay. The lower portion of the waterfront parking lot near the Marine Science Center was blocked off for the project, where 40 contaminated pilings were floated to a boat ramp and lifted by crane onto the tarp-covered ground. There, DNR crew members sawed them into smaller pieces and placed them – as well as the saw dust – into a nearby dumpster, so “nothing goes back into the waterway,” said Port Manager Kirk Stickels.

“They bring it in, cut it into links, then it goes away and is disposed in a proper landfill,” he added. “It’s all part of the port’s effort to clean up Liberty Bay as much as possible.”

Stickels said much of what the port uses is natural material, like cedar logs, which break down more quickly and require more maintenance but are better for the bay. But there are creosote-impregnated structures as well, some of them port surplus, some debris from the bay that has floated toward the port and been rafted together to avoid navigation problems for boaters.

Stickels said creosote is an oil-based, tar-like substance that can be seen on some port pilings and is commonly found on telephone poles. It’s used as a preservative. Because it doesn’t deteriorate, when used in water the hydrocarbon product leeches out, leaving oil sheen contamination at the water’s surface and oozing into the ecosystem.

“It removes a lot of the material from the boom sticks and gets us back closer to where we want to be with natural materials out there,” Stickels said. The state is footing the bill for the project, so the port decided to take it up on its offer.

DNR crew leader Nathan Rice said the crew has been conducting similar cleanup operations around Bainbridge Island, and other sites in Kitsap County are currently being prioritized. It’s all a part of the Puget Sound Partnership, an effort spearheaded by Gov. Christine Gregoire to help restore the sound by 2020.

“The goal is to get as much creosote contamination out of the sound and off the beaches that we can,” Rice said. The effort also focuses on removing unused, derelict pilings.

Running two chainsaws at one, Rice said the crew has to halt and change the saw chains about five times a day – and usually two are totally demolished by the tough substance.

The port assisted in the operation, but Stickels said the cost to the agency would be “virtually nil.”

“From a Liberty Bay standpoint this is great,” he added. Eventually, the port plans to replace all standing pilings with steel ones. This year will mark the start of a project to remove creosote pilings. He also said the port is still looking at design and funding options for a new breakwater.

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