Former Landfill Restored to Salmon-Friendly Stream Again

The Suquamish Tribe recently celebrated the cleanup of 1,000 feet of Gorst Creek that had been covered by a landfill for decades.

Starting in the 1950s, the nearly 6-acre ravine was a dumping ground for garbage from residents, local businesses and the U.S. Navy until it was shut down in 1989. The site was filled with auto recycling waste, scrap metal, household garbage, medical waste and demolition debris, plus materials from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

During the initial construction of the landfill, a 24-inch culvert was installed in Gorst Creek to allow for water flow. However, garbage was piled as high as 60-80 feet tall in some places, crushing the culvert and blocking fish passage to upstream habitat.

The landfill also was upstream of another culvert that runs under Highway 3, which would also become blocked by garbage, causing flooding after heavy rain. This led to discharge of toxic chemicals, lead and other heavy metals from the landfill, as well as the fear that flooding would overtake the highway.

“The removal of the Gorst landfill is a great accomplishment,” said Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman. “It improves habitat for endangered native salmon and shows how we can right the errors of our past. This project demonstrates how all of us can turn the tide for the future of this sacred resource and improve the health of the environment for generations to come.”

The two-year cleanup process, led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, included removing more than 337,000 tons of trash, debris and hazardous materials from the site and the downstream creek channel. Other partners in the project include Kitsap County, Kitsap County Health District and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Some of the materials removed were recycled, such as 100 tons of usable granite that were donate to the parks departments of the cities of Bremerton and Poulsbo, and Kitsap County, as well as Olympic College foroutdoor and public features. Nearly 900 tons of scrap metal, tires and concrete were reused and recycled. Nearly 4,000 tons of hazardous and toxic materials were taken to appropriate disposal sites.

The re-sculpted ravine now has 7,500 native trees and shrubs planted into the hillsides to prevent erosion and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

Photo: The newly restored Gorst Creek that was once buried under a landfill from the 1950s to 2016.