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Moving Forward On Cleaning Up Port Angeles Harbor

Port Angeles Harbor is contaminated with dioxin and is one of Washington State’s priority bay cleanups. The pollution primarily came from the former chlorine-based Rayonier Pulp Mill. The EPA initially designated the site as a Superfund Site in 2000, but deferred the cleanup to WA State Ecology’s Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) instead, under authority of the Solid Waste Program. Cleanup stalled for seven years but after transfer to Ecology’s Toxic Cleanup Program in 2007, cleanup investigations have moved forward steadily.

Rayonier and Ecology have conducted extensive sampling and analysis of the mill site soils and ground water, Strait sediments, and soils from Port Angeles. Dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals, PAHs, phenols and other contaminants have been found at levels of concern.

Recently, the clean-up area has expanded to the entire Port Angeles Harbor (an area of more than five square miles) and additional responsible parties have been identified.

Rayonier will be responsible for cleanup of its mill site proper, a segment of Strait sediments at the east end of the Harbor, and dioxins in soils off-property in and outside of Port Angeles City. Contaminants of concern include dioxin/furans, PCBs, cPAHs (carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons), ammonia, TPH (total petroleum hydrocarbons) and heavy metals. A draft cleanup action plan, which will be released for public comment, is scheduled for the end of 2014 and implementation of the cleanup in 2016.

The responsibility for cleanup of the rest of the Harbor, to the west of the Port Angeles-Victoria, B.C. ferry, has been divided into KPly (the former PenPly plywood mill), the marine trades area (boat/ship repair and building and a marina), and the active Nippon pulp/paper mill and others along Ediz Hook. Several of the polluters have signed legal agreements with Ecology.

Widespread, dense wood fiber mats have accumulated over the years in sediment in the western and eastern portions of the harbor from the Nippon Mill (formerly Crown Zellerbach and Daishowa) and the Rayonier Mill. 2013 saw the demolition of the old KPly/PenPly mill, which is polluted with dioxin. Contaminants found in the western Harbor sediments include dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals, and PAHs. Arsenic, PCBs and dioxins were found in animal tissue.

The Department of Ecology has been steadily releasing documents for public comment. This will continue for the next few years. To access these documents, go to http://www.ecy.wa.gov/ programs/tcp/sites_brochure/psi/portAngeles/psi_portAngeles_