Swift Creek Asbestos Site
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United States Environmental Protection Agency
Region 10: The Pacific Northwest
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Sumas Mountain Asbestos

Site Background: The Sumas Mountain landslide near the headwaters of Swift Creek releases up to 120,000 cubic yards of excess sediment into Swift Creek each year. The slide material contains deposits of Naturally Occurring Asbestos. Swift Creek then flows into the Sumas River near the town of Nooksack in Whatcom County, Washington, past the town of Sumas, and into Canada.

Creek sediments are exposed when water levels are low, when the creek is dredged or when floods deposit material on banks and adjacent properties. Asbestos can become airborne when this asbestos-containing sediment is disturbed. This could happen during activities like walking or riding on sediments, or if the sediments are used for home construction projects, such as driveways or pathways. When asbestos becomes airborne, it can be breathed into the lungs and increases the risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

EPA is working with local, state, and federal agencies on a safe, long-term management plan for sediments coming from Sumas Mountain.

Flooding Information: Updated Flooding Fact Sheet for Residents (PDF) (4 pp, 1.4MB) - February 2010

Sampling History: In 2006, EPA conducted "activity-based" air sampling to determine whether asbestos fibers in piles of dredged sediments along Swift Creek can get into a person's breathing zone during routine activities such as raking, shoveling, jogging, and biking. In February 2007, EPA released a Summary Report (PDF) (40 pp, 106K) which showed elevated levels of risk for certain activities. As a result of these findings, EPA recommended that local residents limit their exposure to the dredged materials. Following flooding in January 2009, EPA sampled water sediments and flood deposits along the Sumas River. The results confirm that elevated asbestos levels occur from Sumas Mountain to (and probably beyond) the Canadian border. In August 2010, EPA conducted soil and activity-based sampling to provide data to determine the degree of potential risks to individuals who are exposed to airborne asbestos as a result of working or living in areas with flood deposits contaminated with asbestos.

En Español: Advertencia sobre asbesto natural en la zona norte del río Sumas (PDF) (4 pp, 162K)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  1. About asbestos
  2. How did this happen?
  3. What does this mean for my health and the health of my family?
  4. Asbestos studies
  5. The issues around Swift Creek asbestos
  6. How far has the material spread?
  7. The problems with using Swift Creek sediment
  8. Proposed solutions and responses
  9. Who’s doing what — and why?
Health Recommendations
Site Information
Maps & Photos
Site Documents

Site Contacts
Ellie Hale (hale.ellie@epa.gov)
EPA Project Manager

Jeff Hegedus (jhegedus@co.whatcom.wa.us)
Whatcom County Health Dept.

Barbara Trejo (barbara.trejo@doh.wa.gov)
Washington Dept. of Health

Join our mailing list to receive periodic updates about Sumas Mountain asbestos issues, please send an email to Ellie Hale (hale.ellie@epa.gov) with your name, email address, and mailing address.

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Swift Creek dredge piles with Sumas Mountain in background.
Related Information

[ Main Cleanup | Brownfields ]
[ Superfund | FOIA | Records Center ]

Point of contact: Ellie Hale
E-Mail: hale.ellie@epa.gov
Phone Number: (206) 553-1215
Last Updated: 06/05/2012