Former creosote Superfund site to become majestic park

In the future, a former Superfund site on Bainbridge Island could become a grassy park with overlooks having views of Mount Rainier to the southeast, Mount Baker to the northeast and the Olympics to the west.

It could even have an amphitheater for a concert venue.

Jacob Moersen of the Environmental Protection Agency presented that vision to the BI City Council at its meeting March 26.

“We have a real gift of this place,” Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki said.

The presentation on the 15-acre Wyckoff cleanup public access plan said it will take up to 10 years, but then it will be turned over to the city for public trails, passive recreation and parking. The site is a former creosote plant located at the southeast corner of Eagle Harbor adjacent to Pritchard Park.

Councilmember Leslie Schneider said she’s excited to have a large public space at the end of the cleanup. She envisions a huge Suquamish pole to welcome people. Moersen said the tribe has expressed the same desire.

Councilmembers asked about concerns they’ve heard from constituents.

Kirsten Hytopoulos asked about waste being trucked along Eagle Harbor Drive. Moersen said he’s seen school kids and people walking dogs along that road with no shoulders. The EPA will try to keep that to a minimum by barging waste off the site instead, he said.

Councilmember Brenda Fantroy-Johnson expressed concern about giant machinery causing vibrations. She foresees “pictures falling off the wall” in nearby houses. She asked the EPA to reach out to neighbors. “They’re not expecting those vibrations.”

She also expressed concern about lighting. “We don’t want it to be where you can see it from space.”

Noise was another concern. “We’re looking at certain technologies that are quieter,” Moersen said.

Mayor Joe Deets asked if there will still be creosote oozing from the ground. Moriwaki said that’s why the project is being capped “to keep seepage down.” Moerson explained that before the wall on the site was built there was seepage on the east side. He said on a hot day with a low tide you could actually see it.

Schneider asked about the seismic risk as Eagle Harbor is just above the Seattle fault. We’re “potentially in for mass destruction,” she said, adding she knows EPA can’t mitigate for everything. But worst-case scenario what can be done to avoid dangerous spills?

Moersen said it’s being done. He said the risk near-term is biggest because their work isn’t done yet. But mixing the creosote underground with cement and steel to make concrete pillars will make the area more stable. “It will be a very secure place to be.”

Councilmember Ashley Mathews asked if dogs can swim and play in the area. Moersen responded the risk to animals is minimal. There are signs to keep out of the most dangerous areas.

Moriwaki said he’s been waiting 23 years for this, and reminded everyone Wycoff wanted $33 million for the property, visualizing something like a resort could go there, but the city got it for $8 million.

In opening the discussion, Moersen said a treatment plant on the site now runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep contaminants out of the drinking water in the aquifer.

He said the first two years EPA will be building the containment wall. It will be higher than it is now due to sea level rise. Dredging will start in 2027. Cement will be injected into the ground, which will cause the ground to swell. The northern end of the site will swell to 17 feet high, while the southern end will be 40 feet. He said there will be a stormwater pond and new outfall into Eagle Harbor to replace a failing one that goes into Puget Sound.

Moersen said there will be trails, a parking lot and areas for public events, but the soil cannot support trees. He said EPA money can’t be spent on things like electrifying the site, but it can help set up for things like an irrigation system to keep the grass green.

Public input will be taken concerning electricity/lighting; paved parking area; artwork; pavilions; and playgrounds. Already planned are one or more overlook areas; metal guardrails; and native plants. EPA is anticipating public concerns during construction including: noise; odors; truck and barge traffic; and Pritchard Park and Creosote Place NE access. Mediation plans include: noise monitoring; air monitoring and sampling; and modified working hours.

The phased construction schedule includes: 2024 – Wellfield realignment and thermal pilot demolition; 2025-26 – Wall replacement; 2027-31 – Beach Dredge Cap, upland ISS remedy; 2032 – Shakedown, handoff to Ecology

A drawing on how the site will be capped.

A drawing on how the site will be capped.