More than 150 tons (300,000 pounds) of creosote-treated wood was airlifted from San Juan Island National Historical Parkâs American Camp beaches last week (October 29-November 2) as part of the parkâs continuing effort to protect natural features and provide a safe environment for visitors.
The creosote-treated wood removal project was managed and conducted by the park with an assist from Washington State Department of Natural Resourcesâ (DNR) Recreation and Fire Management divisions. Other partners on the project include the park/NPS, the DNR, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who provided partial funding through a "marine debris grant" and the Northwest Straits Commission, which provided the majority of funds for the project.
Altogether about 16.5 flight hours were logged in a Hughes MD-500 helicopter (which has a load-carrying capacity of about 1,000 pounds) by the pilot, and two support crew members. The debris was marked by 12 DNR crewmen and assembled for transfer at SouthBeach and Fourth of July Beach. The debris was scheduled to be removed November 6.
âMixed among other logs and driftwood, visitors to park beaches may unknowingly burn treated wood in campfires or use treated wood to build forts,â said Peter Dederich, park superintendent. âOne cubic foot of treated wood contains at least 20 pounds of creosote and treated pilings may continue to leach creosote into the environment for more than 60 years. Removing this material from our beaches permanently improves marine habitat and insures a safe visitor experience at the park.â
Creosote-treated wood is toxic to a variety of organisms, resulting in its popularity as a wood preservative. However, when leached into the environment, these same properties have unintended consequences, according to Christopher Davis, park resources manager. For example, one study found that 95 percent of herring eggs - an important forage fish in the Puget-Sound area - were killed when exposed to a creosote solution, Davis said. Creosote exposed to sunlight becomes more toxic and more likely to leach polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the environment.
âMany PAHs are known carcinogens and coal-tar creosote used on many pilings is regulated as a hazardous waste,â Davis said. âCreosote is now banned from use in freshwater and discouraged from use in marine waters. â