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Feature Story

Carl Bach, Remediation project manager, examines a sample of sugar solution

Marian Lockhart/Boeing

Carl Bach, Remediation project manager, examines a sample of sugar solution that will be injected into the groundwater at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Recipe for cleanup

Walking across the tarmac at the north end of Boeing Field in Seattle, Carl Bach prepares for a delivery of sugar. The mechanical engineer is not assisting with a catering order. Bach is one of more than 30 “remediators” working on environmental cleanup programs at sites affected by former operations.

Sugar and sugar syrups that can’t be used at a bakery or soda company are being used to treat volatile organic compounds in groundwater, according to Bach.

“We couldn’t believe how effective this is,” Bach says. “Natural degradation is already occurring. We are basically providing an additional food source, feeding the bacteria and promoting the biodegradation process that already exists.”

"We couldn’t believe how effective this is."

The sugar, which otherwise might have been thrown away, is being recycled as an ideal food source for the bacteria.

Bach and the remediation team work with state and federal regulatory agencies, leading scientists and experts, and community members to clean up former manufacturing facilities, as well as sites where Boeing or companies it has acquired shipped chemicals and other waste for treatment, storage or disposal.

At Santa Susana, a former federal rocket engine testing site in Southern California, the Remediation team treated perchlorate-impacted soils on site by using food products and other biodegradable materials. Perchlorate, a salt, is used as a component of solid rocket fuel and road flares. Besides helping naturally occurring microorganisms clean up the salt, the team eliminated the need to haul soil to a hazardous waste facility.

And in Rancho Cordova, Calif., a Remediation team used highly concentrated, pure vinegar to treat contaminated groundwater.

Back in Washington state, Bach and other members of the remediation team are working on ways to restore fish habitat along the banks of the Duwamish Waterway, where Boeing is demolishing an old factory built on pilings above the water to produce B-17 bombers during World War II. When the project is finished, Boeing will create nearly 5 acres of intertidal wetlands and restore more than a half mile of shoreline, which will benefit salmon and aquatic life in the waterway that cuts through the heart of Seattle’s major industrial area.

The habitat restoration is part of a larger effort to clean up the 5.3-mile long Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site. In October 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology released a list of options for cleaning up the Duwamish. Cleanup options range from four years to 38 years of dredging and construction, and range in cost from an estimated $210 million to $1.35 billion. Boeing will join other parties – including the city of Seattle, the Port of Seattle, King County and businesses operating along the waterway – in cleaning up the Duwamish.

To learn more, visit the EPA's Lower Duwamish Waterway website. Or visit the website of the LDWG.

To voice your opinions, submit your comments on the proposed cleanup options under consideration via e-mail to the EPA by Dec. 23, 2010. Or attend an EPA public meeting on this topic. Meetings are set for Dec. 7, 2010 at Concord Elementary School in at 723 S. Concord St. in Seattle and Dec. 9, 2010 at South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave. SW in Seattle.