State fines contractor for Bellevue chemical spill
February 10, 2010 · 3:47 PM
The state Department of Ecology has fined a contractor $9,000 for two chemical spills in Bellevue that occurred last July during work on the I-405 widening project.
The incident allowed resin to enter Trail Creek, which feeds into Mercer Slough and Lake Washington.
The Department of Ecology also issued a warning to the Washington State Department of Transportation for failing to oversee the work of its contractors properly.
Michel's Pipe Services was installing a plastic lining in a 24-inch culvert that carries Trail Creek under the freeway when an unexpected flow occurred.
Workers blocked the flow with an inflatable plug that eventually failed, allowing the water to wash resin into Trail Creek. They had tried to divert the creek while installing the lining.
Michel's did not report the spill, but citizens using park trails the next morning reported chemical odors to the city of Bellevue.
Department of Ecology investigators say they discovered resin in the creek, a rainbow sheen on the surface, milky water and putty-like chunks. The also reported finding dead crayfish and other organisms.
The resin contained mineral oil and styrene, which is toxic to crayfish and other crustaceans.
Michel's hired environmental firms to clean up the creek.
A second spill occurred while contractors were trying to repeat the installation, but this time it was reported quickly to WSDOT and the Department of Ecology.
"WSDOT and the contractors cooperated fully with Ecology after becoming aware of the human health and environmental threat posed by these spills," Department of Ecology spill-response supervisor David Byers said in a statement. "However, the damage to the creek could have been minimized if workers had taken precautions to intercept any releases that might occur."
Michel's vice president David Stegeman also commented in a statement, saying: "Michel's takes environmental stewardship very seriously on every job and has a solid environmental record. We have completed projects of this type for over 20 years...and have never had a similar release."