Creosote Removal

Crews remove creosote from the San Juan archipelago. DNR Photo
DNR is leading efforts throughout Puget Sound to remove creosote-treated debris from our marine and estuarine waters. Projects include removing debris that washes onto area beaches, lagoons, and estuaries, as well as removing structures and pilings that line the nearshore and no longer serve a function. 
In both cases, these creosote-treated materials continue to leach chemical compounds into beach and marine sediments causing toxic conditions for organisms that live in and use these areas. The presence of unused structures also blocks sediment transport and allows for unwanted shading along the critical nearshore, displacing what could be valuable vegetated habitat.  
Since the DNR Aquatic Resources Division's Creosote Removal Program began in 2004, we have pulled 14,461 pilings, removing over 21,300 tons of creosote from Puget Sound.  This effort has included the removal of over 8.3 acres or 6 football fields worth of overwater structure.  Additionally, our program has hand-hauled and disposed of over 6,670 tons of creosote-treated debris from Puget Sound beaches.

A helicopter helps remove creosote from the Doe Kag Wats estuary in Kitsap County. DNR PhotoBackground

Removal of creosote-treated wood from Puget Sound has been a major focus of DNR's Restoration Program. Since 2004, DNR has partnered with entities such as Marine Resources Committees (MRC), WSU BeachWatchers, People for Puget Sound, Washington State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, and the Northwest Straits Commission, to identify and remove creosote-treated debris. The effort began in the north Sound and has since expanded Sound-wide. 
DNR and its partners have trained hundreds of citizen volunteers to identify and inventory debris using GPS technology. Data gathered has been used to determine removal locations based on the largest accumulations coupled with habitat features, access issues, and partnership possibilities.  

Funding Timeline for Creosote Removal Projects

  • Early funding: DNR's Restoration Program matched with MRC funds, Coastal Protection Funds, and NOAA grants, as well as countless hours of in-kind work from volunteers and local area parks staff.
  • 2006: Additional funding became available through the Puget Sound Initiative to clean up Puget Sound by 2020. This allowed DNR to focus on the source by starting to remove derelict piers, docks, and pilings that were aging, breaking apart in storms and floating from beach to beach throughout the Sound leaving creosote residue in its wake. DNR received $2 million from the Initiative for work from July 2006-June 2007; then $4 million during the 2007-2009 Biennium.
  • 2009 – 2011: Received funding from Department of Ecology through the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) to complete additional cleanup projects in the Sound.  In 2009, DNR received $3.7 million.  From 2010 to 2011, DNR received $1 million.
  • 2012: Awarded $700,000 in grant funding from Department of Ecology to reduce polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Funding focuses on removing creosote-treated pilings from Hood Canal. 
  • 2012: Received $1.25 million from the Jobs Now Act passed by the Washington State Legislature to remove creosote-treated piles from Puget Sound.

Creosote-removal Projects by year

2013 Projects

Burrows Island Creosote Debris Removal, Anacortes. January 2013
DNR led the removal of two large creosote-treated floats, each weighing about 6-7 tons, from a beach on Burrows Island, west of Anacortes .Each of the two floats measured 10-ft 3 inches long by 6-ft wide by 3-1/2-ft in height. These floats may have been part of a large float system that supported a ‘submarine net,’ which once stretched from Fort Flagler to Port Townsend during WWII to prevent submarines from entering Puget Sound.DNR blog story

Dungeness Spit / 3 Crabs Creosote Debris Removal, Clallam County. January 14-17, 2013
In response to a report of creosote-treated wood debris, a crew from DNR's WCC Puget SoundCorps program along with the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and North Olympic Salmon Coalition removed 12 tons of debris from Dungeness Spit.

West Bay Creosote Piling and Overwater Structure Removal, Olympia. February 2013
DNR and partners from the Squaxin Island Tribe, the Port of Olympia, the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and private landowners joined together to remove toxic derelict pilings and structures from much of the southern end of Budd Inlet in Olympia. With funding from the Washington Legislature's 2012 Jobs Now Act, the partners hired a private firm from Kirkland, WA,  to carry out the removal project. DNR blog story

Kitsap County Parks Creosote Debris Removal, various sites. April - May 2013
Six Puget SoundCorps members and two DNR staff identified the debris to be removed and hauled the debris to a dumpster. In addition to old pilings, the crew removed old docks and other marine debris that washed onto county park shores and adjacent beaches at Old Mill Park in Silverdale, Point No Point Park, Norwegian Point, and Salsbury Point.

Oak Bay Creosote Removal, Jefferson County. June 17-20, 2013
A WCC Puget SoundCorps crew and a helicopter removed 45.5 tons of creosote-treated debris from marshes in Oak Bay County Park, located across the channel from South Indian Island County Park in Jefferson County.

2012 Projects

San Juan County miscellaneous creosote debris removal projects. December 17-20, 2012
Puget SoundCorps crewmembers spent four windy, cold, and rainy days removing creosote debris from Neck Point on Shaw Island and Jackson's Beach on San Juan Island. DNR blog story.

Indian Island County Park Creoste Debris Removal, Jefferson County. April 10, 2012 
On April 10, 2012, DNR staff and Washington Conservation Corps crews worked with a helicopter hauling company to remove old creosote-treated wood debris from the beach, lagoon, and marsh at Indian Island County Park in Jefferson County. The county leases and manages the beach from DNR, which is part of 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands. DNR blog story.

Double Bluff County Park / Sunlight Beach Creosote Debris Removal, Whidbey Island. September 17-19
Puget SoundCorps crews removed more than 15 tons of debris using heavy equipment and hand labor. Double Bluff County Park is located on Whidbey Island near Freeland.Cost of the removal project: $13,000. This was the fourth removal project, with diminishing amounts of debris each time.

2011 Projects

Lopez Island, Nov. 2011
Washington Conservation Corps crews with partners from DNR, San Juan County Land Bank, San Juan County Parks, Washington State Parks, and the Bureau of Land Management removed more than 70 tons of creosote-treated debris from several nearshore locations on Lopez Island. Debris was removed from Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve, Weeks Wetland, Odlin County Park, Spencer Spit State Park, Watmough Bay Preserve, and adjacent locations. Crews filled 13 containers with debris. 

2010 Projects

Chemical leach from a creosote-treated log. DNR Photo
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