SEATTLE — If the half-dozen people working with the Department of Natural Resources to clean up creosote pilings from Puget Sound continued non-stop every day, it would take 10 years for them to remove it all.

"In fact, just over here to the left, one of those washed up just last night. They have been on the beach every day. They have been removing them. It's happening nonstop," explained Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz. "This work is long."

The toxic pilings are a major challenge to salmon and killer whale recovery. Creosote was used decades ago to preserve wood but now it's contaminating Puget Sound. It kills salmon and forage fish and poisons marine mammals.

"If you look at any one of these creosote logs, they are covered in toxins. If this was a hot day, you would actually be able to see the pollutants come off the log in the heat. A single touch can actually burn your skin, so imagine what happens when these products are in the water or breaking up. They are leaching into our waterways," Franz said.

The Department of Natural Resources does not have enough crew members to clean it all up fast enough, Franz says.  Her current budget request asks for $90 million for salmon habitat, and some of that will go toward adding a full-time crew to remove all the contaminated wood. 

"So we don't have to keep re-training new people and we can be more able to rely on them to get more projects done," Franz said. "Right now we rely on our Washington Conservation Corps to do this work but we only have them about two weeks out of every month."

DNR currently removes 5 tons of creosote pilings every day.

If you want more information about how to spot and report creosote pilings, visit My Coast: Washington.