BREMERTON, Wash.— Federal, state and Tribal natural resource trustees have signed an agreement to jointly conduct Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) activities for the Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site, a former manufactured gas plant located about a mile and a half north of downtown Bremerton, Washington. The NRDAR process involves evaluating injuries to natural resources due to releases of hazardous substances, and potentially asserting legal claims for compensation for those injuries on behalf of the public.
The agreement sets up the Bremerton Gas Works Natural Resource Trustee Council (Trustee Council) that will undertake NRDAR activities, including selecting any restoration projects that may ultimately be implemented to restore and compensate for the injured natural resources.
The natural resource trustees participating in this agreement include:
- The Suquamish Tribe;
- The State of Washington, represented by Washington Department of Ecology;
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and,
- The U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) authorizes the federal government, states and Tribes to act as natural resource trustees and to seek compensation on behalf of the public for natural resource injuries.
Potentially responsible parties may compensate for natural resource injuries through direct implementation of restoration projects, or by providing monetary damages to the Trustee Council to implement restoration projects.
The Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site occupies approximately 2.8 acres of property along the Port Washington Narrows in Puget Sound. Two species of federally endangered or threatened fish (steelhead trout and chinook salmon) occur near the site. This portion of Puget Sound is used as a commercial and subsistence fishery for the Suquamish Tribe, as well as a sport and commercial fishery for non-Tribal fishers.
In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard issued an order to Cascade Natural Gas Corporation to remove a pipe from the Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site that was releasing hazardous substances – including tars which are associated with the gas manufacturing process– into the Port Washington Narrows. To date, various contaminants have been detected within upland soils, ground water beneath Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site and within the Port Washington Narrows sediments.
The NRDAR process is distinct from the process for environmental cleanup of the area. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently overseeing cleanup work at the Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site to ultimately protect human health and the environment, whereas the Trustee Council will assess injury to natural resources caused by hazardous releases from the Bremerton Gas Works Superfund Site and plan restoration.
The Trustee Council is committed to keeping the public informed about important milestones in the ongoing NRDAR, including the opportunity, as appropriate, to comment on assessment and restoration documents.