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Creosote kicked off beach

Using a boom tractor, bulkhead contractor and creosote cleanup advocate Tony Frantz does the first bit of creosote cleanup since he started raising awareness of the toxin two years ago. - Matt Johnson
Using a boom tractor, bulkhead contractor and creosote cleanup advocate Tony Frantz does the first bit of creosote cleanup since he started raising awareness of the toxin two years ago.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Tony Frantz finally got some satisfaction last week.

After spending two years warning Whidbey Islanders, elected representatives, environmental groups and the media about the dangers of the creosoted wood washed up on Washington shorelines, Frantz was able to clean up at least a small section of beach.

With permission from the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife, Frantz used a boom tractor to pull a truck load of creosoted wood off a privately owned beach and sand spit in the Sunlight Beach and Deer Lagoon area. A bulkhead contractor who has campaigned to clean up creosote since overexposure to the petroleum-based chemical damaged his immune system, Frantz did the work the work for a bargain price and as part of a deal that made it a tax writeoff for the property owner.

Frantz said he asked the property owner, Vanessa Radford, to allow him to do the cleanup as part of a job to install 173 feet of vinyl bulkhead at the property. It didn't take much convincing, he said.

"The smell was overwhelming," he said.

On Monday, Frantz had pulled enough of the toxic wood off the beach to fill a logging truck, he said. It will be disposed of at a toxic waste landfill in Ferndale. Creosote has been used for decades to make wood impervious to water, insects and rot. Creosoted wood has commonly been used to build bulkheads, piers and other marine structures.

By cutting Radford a deal on the work and routing the payment through The Orca Network, Greenbank non-profit, Frantz made the cleanup affordable. Radford paid $2,000 for the cleanup work, all of which is tax deductible. Frantz said he donated about $2,000 of his time.

Susan Berta, one of the founders of The Orca Network, said routing money this way was a pilot project for her group. Creosote cleanup, she said, is something for which property owners deserve a break.

"Which only makes sense because they're doing something for the environment," she said.

Frantz said he expects federal money from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, to pay for more and larger-scale cleanups in the Puget Sound region in the future.

Down at the beach, where Frantz kept his cleanup work limited to a narrow sandy corridor, Renee Freeman, a caretaker for Radford's home, is waiting for the payoff. She said there are still about 15 pieces of creosote that are difficult to get to in front of the house, and several more at the end of the sandy spit. But she is sure that what Frantz removed last week will make a difference.

"I'm sure the odor on the beach will be far less," she said.

Frantz and a Bellingham group that has been cleaning shorelines near that city have brought a good deal of attention to the creosote issue. Both state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen have made personal visits to Whidbey Island beaches impacted by creosote.

Neither Frantz nor Berta at the Orca Network have decided whether to continue to continue using the non-profit as a go between for future cleanup work.

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