Mike Brown runs the machine that is extracting goose and duck poop from the bottom of the Greenbank Farm pond. (Maria Matson / Whidbey News Group)

Mike Brown runs the machine that is extracting goose and duck poop from the bottom of the Greenbank Farm pond. (Maria Matson / Whidbey News Group)

Bird droppings removed from Greenbank Farm pond

A Freeland inventor’s machine sucks up the goose poop and sprays it as fertilizer on a grassy field.

By Maria Matson / South Whidbey Record

WHIDBEY ISLAND — Stinky, slimy goose and duck poop has accumulated over the years at the bottom of the small pond at Greenbank Farm.

It has sat there for years, undisturbed.

Until now.

The Port of Coupeville is funding a cleanup effort using a machine invented by Freeland local Tony Frantz, in partnership with Ken Petry of Petry Custom Land Prep.

The bird poop was posing a hazard to the farm’s fire suppression inlet pipe, and the port wanted clean water that wouldn’t clog filters when used for agriculture.

The machine started running daily over two weeks ago in the roughly 10-foot deep pond, and is sucking up thousands of pounds of waste.

More than 60 truckloads of goose poop and other sediment were transported a short distance to the farm’s grassy field to be sprayed as fertilizer.

“The health and vitality of this historic farm has many needs; the pond restoration was at the top of our list and has been in need for over five years,” Port of Coupeville Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos said in an email. “With potential farming programs on the horizon, and with the need for clean fire suppression water for the historic barn, this was a high priority for this year.”

The project is being funded through an Island County rural economic development grant, which was $46,000. The final cost ended up being about $39,900, Michalopoulos said. The Port of Coupeville is responsible for 10 percent, or about $3,990.

The Port of Coupeville received two bids to complete the project, Michalopoulos said.

The rejected bid’s approach would have been to drain the pond, let it dry out during the summer, and place the removed sediment in trucks to be used as fertilizer after a year.

It was a much more costly route, Michalopoulos said.

Frantz came up with the idea for his filtering machine, called a “creosote piling and sediment extractor,” 17 years ago, he said. It only took him one try to create his invention.

“With the first model, it was perfect,” he said. Larger-scale versions of his machine have also been built and used in places such as Port Angeles by the state’s Department of Natural Resources in 2016.

Frantz was involved in numerous environmental cleanup projects, such as a 2006 project at Lake Hancock, where creosote-soaked logs were removed from the beach.

He’s also spent years trying to bring attention to the dangers of creosote, he said, including talking to politicians.

“Now, creosote’s being cleaned up all around Puget Sound,” he said.

Creosote is found in aging docks, telephone poles and other wooden structures, and his machine has the ability to remove it from the water. The chemical was used as a wood preservative before its health risks, including cancer, became known. It’s also hazardous to animals, including orcas and fish, he said.

Frantz used to build structures made with creosote-treated wood, but became sick from exposure.

“I got poisoned by the creosote,” he said. “I can’t be around it anymore.”

An article published in the Whidbey News-Times this past March alerted him to the Port’s need to clean up the pond. He felt he was up to the task, and enlisted the help of his longtime friend Petry.

“It’s been going well,” Petry said, and his son Colten Petry agreed.

Even though the filtered pond will be clean enough to swim in, one probably wouldn’t want to — they’ve found two big leeches so far, Frantz said. One was eight inches long, and the other was four inches.

This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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