Wyckoff Co./Eagle Harbor Case Study
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Last Updated January 1999
Wyckoff Co./Eagle Harbor
Bainbridge Island, Washington
Water, nearshore sediments, and marine life contaminated with toxic chemicals from wood-treatment and shipyard operations
Safe habitat for marine life and expansion of ferry maintenance facilities
Improved water and marine sediment quality, decreased public health risks, and restored marine ecosystem health
The Bainbridge Island—Seattle ferry route is the most traveled route of the Washington State Ferry (WSF) System, carrying nearly seven million passengers a year. Until the mid-1990s, passengers on the daily ferries could see an oily sheen on Eagle Harbor's waters and a black ooze on the beaches. The Wyckoff Co./Eagle Harbor Superfund site threatened the welfare of island residents, tourists, water sport enthusiasts, and the environment. Scientists described the area as a quot;cesspoolquot; of chemical contamination. Over 80 years of wood-treatment and shipyard operations resulted in severely contaminated waters and marine sediments. The state issued a public health advisory urging people not to consume fish from the Harbor. Cooperation among local, state, and federal partners sparked innovative cleanup techniques and reuse. What follows is the story of how EPA, together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Washington State Departments of Transportation and Ecology, and the local community, returned this property to productive use, resulting in positive economic impacts, and environmental and social benefit.
Site SnapshotSince the early 1900s, spills and leaks from wood-treatment and shipyard operations polluted Eagle Harbor, surrounding beaches, marine sediments, and marine life in Central Puget Sound. At the mouth of the harbor, the Wyckoff Company's operations contaminated a 500-acre area with 400,000 gallons of creosote and other toxic chemicals used in the wood-treatment process. Severe contamination resulted from wastewater discharged directly into the Harbor and treated timber stored in the surrounding waters. In the 1970s, EPA also learned that activities at the shipyard, located in West Eagle Harbor, had polluted its surroundings. Further investigations identified sediments contaminated with polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals such as mercury, copper, lead, and zinc. EPA put Eagle Harbor on its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup in 1987 and added West Eagle Harbor in 1988.
From Harbor Degradation...Once an abundant source of fresh fish and other seafood, Eagle Harbor was filled with contaminated fish with lesions and other deformities. To protect its economic and environmental values, and eliminate the public health risks to more than 15,000 residents living on Bainbridge Island, EPA and the USACE developed a plan to clean up the Harbor and restore the marine ecosystem.
In 1994, EPA and USACE capped 54 acres of polluted harbor bottom in East Eagle Harbor with clean sediments. The capping will continue until complete in 2001. In West Eagle Harbor, EPA worked with the State of Washington to dismantle contaminated in-water docks and remove polluted sediments. The most polluted sediments were placed inside a partially submerged confined disposal facility (CDF), next to the WSF Maintenance Terminal. Now there are restrictions prohibiting anchoring over the cap. Long-term monitoring, including periodic vacuuming of oily product and diving to check the integrity of the cap, is now required.
...To HabitatThe sediment cap around the former Wyckoff facility in East Eagle Harbor prevents the release of toxins into the Harbor and Puget Sound and is a new home for crabs, starfish, and other marine life. Since the cap was constructed, the number of lesions found on fish has decreased. In the West Harbor, the above-water section of the CDF was paved and provides additional space for parking and storage. The submerged portions of the CDF were lined with gravel, creating habitat for mussels and barnacles. The Washington State Department of Transportation planted 0.6 acres of eelgrass near the CDF to compensate for the loss of habitat during cleanup. Eelgrass supports fisheries by providing food, shelter, and protection to fish and shellfish and also stabilizes intertidal soils. A two-acre estuarine salt marsh habitat was also constructed to restore the ecosystem's productivity.
Community BenefitsCleanup of the east and west harbors of the Wyckoff Company/Eagle Harbor site restored fragile marine ecosystems and protected human health. The community had feared the area would never be cleaned up and would continue to be a threat. Now, the site is visually appealing and again home to a variety of aquatic species. Also, construction of the CDF facilitated expansion of ferry maintenance facilities and provided space for storage of supplies. The additional space ensures the safe and dependable operation of the WSF system as new vessels are added to the fleet, and avoids disruption of vital daily ferry service.
Keys to SuccessThe partnership between EPA and USACE made possible implementation of an innovative approach to handling contaminated sediments. Participation by the Association of Bainbridge Communities was instrumental in informing the public of opportunities to become involved in the cleanup process.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Wyckoff Co./Eagle Harbor site, contact:
U.S. EPA Region 10
1200 Sixth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101