The state Department of Natural Resources began to remove 183 derelict creosote-treated pilings and a former ferry dock from five different sites around Fox Island last week.
The project, which costs about $113,000, has been funded by the state’s 2012 Jobs Act Now.
A DNR official said the department recognizes the cultural and historical significance of the 3,500-square-foot dock that once was part of the Puget Sound’s mosquito fleet and the steamships that came to the inland waters, but the health of the environment takes priority.
“The dock and pilings are coated in creosote, a toxic mix of over 300 chemicals formerly used for preserving wood and preventing erosion and damage,” said Toni Droshcher, communications manager for the DNR’s aquatic resource team.
The toxins leach into the water over the lifespan of the coated wood, and they emit a foul odor and create polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Droshcher said.
Studies show creosote and the PAHs it creates harms fish and bird eggs and juvenile salmon, Droshcher said. The chemical also has been shown to be harmful to human health from vapors and with contact, she said.
“The contractors are finding stubs of pilings,” Droshcher said. “Some have already broken off. Those become a navigational and environmental hazard, making cleanup difficult.”
Work is occurring during the afternoons due to tide schedules.
Project Manager Jordanna Black said the removal is ahead of schedule and may wrap up early next week.
The Fox Island project aligns with the Puget Sound’s Action Agenda’s goal to remove more than 3,000 creosote-soaked pilings by the end of 2017.