[Protecting the Environment 97]

Though environmental issues around the area seem to be in the news as much as ever, changes in the industry and policy governing environmental issues have caused a shudder to run through the industry. But, as the dust from these changes settles, will it also mean a return to more prosperous times for the environmental industry? The Daily Journal of Commerce's special publication, Protecting the Environment, explores this question and other issues surrounding our environment and it's stewardship in the coming year.

For many firms, the past year wasn't a good one. It was described as "grim" and "the worst year on record" by Environmental Business International, a San Diego-based research, consulting and publishing company that tracks the health of the environmental industry. With these findings, there has been a call to regulatory agencies to take a larger role in policy reform. As well, a similar response is needed from industry, to adapt and improve its products and services to meet the new challenges and needs of customers in the coming years.

Mount Rainier
Has the last year been as tough for the local environment as it has for some environmental firms?

Recent changes to the Model Toxics Control Act may provide some help in the coming year. The MTCA has made some policy changes designed to make property clean-ups faster, easier and more cost-effective.

As well, some firms are finding international work to be a profitable means of expanding their business. Protecting the Environment looked at two firms, the Northwest Environmental Business Council and Pentec Environmental, and their experiences working abroad on environmental projects.

Potential changes in the listing of endangered species, particularly salmon, in Washington could have far-reaching implications for the development and preservation of the area's rivers.

How are local environmental firms coping with changes in the industry? What projects are they working on, and what trends are they observing in the Pacific Northwest? The annual DJC Environmental Survey polled 18 of the area's top environmental firms to see how their business has been over the past year.

Dangerous level of arsenic in water supply
Water quality standards applicable in Washington State include human health standards adopted for the state by EPA in 1992 under the National Toxics Rule. For carcinogens, these are set at the hypothetical 1 in a million lifetime risk level.

Local plan tests how to integrate SEPA with GMA
Industrial-area planning and environmental protection are two concepts not necessarily known for their compatibility. Yet here in Seattle they are coming together through a merger of the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), the Growth Management Act (GMA), and the city of Seattle's comprehensive planning policies.

State Department of Transportation Takes Leadership Role in Watershed Management
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has received funding from the state Legislature and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to support its new multi-faceted approach to environmental impact mitigation.

ECOSS helps with prevention, cleanups
The Environmental Extension Service (EES) is a 15-month, pilot project of the Duwamish Coalition, funded jointly by the City of Seattle and King County. Its mission is to expand the manufacturing and industrial job base of the Duwamish industrial corridor, while at the same time protect and enhance the corridor's natural environment. Sound like just another government boondoggle?

Brownfields: property cleanup and redevelopment incentives
The Environmental Protection Agency launched a new, non-regulatory initiative in 1995 to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of under-utilized industrial properties, or "brownfields."

West coast port remediation ideas sent East
Some of the most important Puget Sound port facilities have been developed through an innovative combination of ideas using nearshore confined disposal facilities (CDFs) to isolate contaminated dredged materials, as well as to create new terminal areas, increase channel depth and facilitate improved marine habitats.

This hazardous waste program hits home
One thousand tons of hazardous waste are dumped each year directly into sewers on the ground, posing a serious threat to Puget Sound. Industrial byproducts? No, just households improperly disposing of cleaners, solvents, paints and other products used in and around the home.

1997 DJC environmental industry survey
Was 1996 really the worst year ever for the U.S. environmental industry? To answer these questions on a local level, the staff of the Daily Journal of Commerce has profiled 18 environmental firms in Washington state.

Rational landslide policy is a slippery slope
This winter's storms confronted us, once again, with the complicated issues surrounding construction in landslide-prone areas.

Nalley Valley poised to catch next wave
Tacoma is a pioneer among communities in the adaptive reuse of brownfield sites. Several innovative projects along the western shore of the Thea Foss Waterway and Puyallup Tribe properties serve as examples.

NEBC wins grant for Philippines project
Imagine a tropical paradise in the South Pacific -- beaches of sparkling white sand, deep blue waters, coral reefs and colorful exotic fish, secret islands just a short sail from the coast, grass huts and a soft breeze wafting though the palms.

Center aims to link environment, economy
What do you get when you cross an environmentalist, an entrepreneur and an investment banker?

Green buildings are a growing concern
Here in the Northwest, sustainable building practices continue to grow as market demand increases. The Northwest Federal Credit Union, the Port of Seattle, the Norm Thompson headquarters in Oregon, and other corporations have flagship buildings that champion a green approach. What's going on here? Are these clients onto something the design and construction community needs to know about?

`Asian tigers are on the prowl for new environmental technologies
Pentec, a 25-person, Edmonds-based environmental consulting firm, entered the international environmental marketplace about two years ago. It has completed five international projects to date: one in the Republic of Kiribati, one in the Republic of Palau and three in Canada.

Environmental justice concerns come to Northwest
The issue of environmental justice is becoming more important in the preparation of environmental assessments as federal and state agencies develop and require compliance with their guidelines, and as lawsuits continue to be filed and precedents are set.

Citizen suits put teeth in Clean Water Act
The goals of the Clean Water Act's citizen enforcers are no less than the goals of the Act itself -- the elimination of the discharge of pollutants to our nation's waters and the attainment of water quality sufficient for safe swimming and the propagation of fish, shellfish and wildlife.

Streamlining the risk assessment process
Risk assessment is not a new concept as an alternative to stringent, nonsite-specific standards for determining cleanup action at hazardous waste sites. But the traditional use of this tool has been a fairly comprehensive, arduous process based on hypothetical situations without regard to actual site conditions and the feasibility of a remedy.

What do Northwest salmon really need?
Nothing represents the history and heritage of the Pacific Northwest more than salmon. For hundreds, even thousands, of years, these remarkable fish have sparked the imagination and symbolized much that is special about this region. Yet, sadly, in many of our rivers and streams, this icon of Northwest life is facing a grave risk of extinction.

How to restore a slide area successfully
Over time, all steep slopes are prone to soil erosion and landslides. In the Pacific Northwest we experienced the acceleration of this process during the winter storms of 1997, as slides throughout the region resulted in loss of life and property.

Don't let a wetland project bog you down
As popular as the concept has become, the science of wetland mitigation and monitoring is still in its infancy and there's still confusion about how best to define a "good" mitigation plan and verify its success.

Growth is biggest obstacle to cleaner air
The Environmental Protection Agency's new standards for ground-level ozone and particulate matter have received lots of media attention in recent weeks. Although the impact on our region is not completely clear yet, our goal is crystal clear. We want to be off the list when EPA identifies nonattainment areas in a few years.

A new effort to protect Puget Sound
When it comes to restoring and preserving water quality and habitat in Puget Sound, the "to do" list is never ending. That's where the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team's focused, two-year strategy comes in.

MTCA logo

The rule changes to the MTCA will have far-reaching implications for local environmental firms. Following are stories that explain the nature of the policy changes and how they may - or may not - make environmental clean-up projects easier.

Cleaning up contaminated property is about to get easier
Complex. Confusing. Not fair. Expensive. Are these the words you associate with cleaning up contaminated property? All are true, especially the first time you face a cleanup. But cleanup can be done and there are some success stories.

New approach to ecological risk assessment
When faced with cleaning up contaminated property, selecting a remedy that protects people's health and the environment is key to the cleanup process.

Science and economics drive TPH changes
Industrial land owners and developers are all too familiar with the cost of cleaning up petroleum releases to levels that are "clean" according to Washington state standards. But the definition of "clean" may soon change.

Whose plume is this, anyway?
When is a contaminated property not what it seems? Under recent statutory amendments, much depends on what happens next door.

Will changes speed brownfield cleanups?
Although there can be no doubt that CERCLA and MTCA have been successful in greatly reducing health and environmental hazards at a significant number of extremely dangerous and highly contaminated sites, the approach used in these laws has had unfortunate and unintended consequences.

Copyright © 1997 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.