Retiree 'matriarch' of North Olympic Peninsula environmental community
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Eloise Kailin and her son, Harvey, walk on part of the family's 4-acre farm near the Dungeness River, where they have planted an orchard and plan to produce apple butter and create a community garden. -- Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM -- Dr. Eloise Kailin helped fight against a nuclear power plant on the Miller Peninsula east of Sequim -- and won.

That was in 1973 and led to the formation of the nonprofit Protect the Peninsula's Future, the North Olympic Peninsula's longest-standing environmental group.

Today, the group tackles issues affecting health, wildlife habitat and quality of life in the region, while Kailin remains active in environmental battles while sharing a 4-acre farm off River Road with her son, Harvey, where the two have built a commercial kitchen to produce apple butter.

Bob Lynette, a retired conservation lobbyist and renewable energy consultant who has worked with Kailin on the PPF board for 12 years, sees the 91-year-old retired physician as the original driving force behind Peninsula environmental activism.

"My expression for Eloise is she has been the matriarch of the Olympic Peninsula's environmental community since the 1970s," said Lynette, who describes Kailin as "egoless" and with a mind capable of "incisiveness and acute thinking."

Steve Koehler, PPF board president since the 1990s, agreed.

"She's probably the most intelligent person I've been around," he said.

In 1969, Clallam County Public Utility District entered negotiations to purchase 500 acres of land on the Miller Peninsula for possible development of a nuclear power plant, the PUD said on its website at

"Many residents of the Sequim-Blyn area did not appreciate this news. Upon further analysis, the seismic risks of the site made it inappropriate for its intended use," PUD said.

The land now is the Miller Peninsula State Park, a 2,800-acre tract fronting both the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Discovery Bay, the PPF said on its website,

Water reclamation site

A 15-year court battle led to the city of Sequim constructing a state-of- the-art water reclamation facility in 1998 after years of dumping raw sewage into Sequim Bay, leading the state to close area shellfish beds.

Sewage from the city of Sequim now is treated to the highest possible standards and released into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, away from shellfish.

Kailin said the city of Sequim's court costs to fight the group on the sewage treatment issue reached $600,000, with the environmental group's costs at about $250,000.

"At that point, we were about out of money," she said, adding that a new City Council under a new city manager form of government was "more amenable" to producing the Class A water through reclamation.

"The unsung heroes here are the foundations that pay PPF to bring these lawsuits," Kailin said.

They include the Horizon Foundation; the Harder Foundation; the Simpson Reed Institute, which owns Graysmarsh Farm in Dungeness; and the Northwest Fund for the Environment.

Mayor praises Kailin

While former city leaders fought the environmental group, Sequim Mayor Ken Hays last summer praised Kailin and voiced support for the group when dedicating the newly expanded Sequim water reclamation plant that is double the capacity of the plant planned in 1997.

"PPF and the city were not always on talking terms. Sometimes, things that start out as battles become community vision," Hays told more than 50 city, county, state and federal representatives attending the $11 million reclamation plant's expansion dedication in August.

Kailin and the PPF in the mid-1980s challenged the Port of Port Angeles but lost an effort to locate John Wayne Marina outside Travis Spit at the mouth of Sequim Bay.

The marina was seen as a potential pollution source, Kailin said.

The group instead successfully negotiated an agreement with the port for a public boat launch and park at the marina. The pact also said that creosote pilings in the marina must gradually be converted to nontoxic materials.

In 2007, Kailin was the first recipient of the People for Puget Sound Legacy Award given in the spirit of the late Sen. Warren G. Magnuson.

She also has been honored by the Washington Environmental Council and has received the 1987 Clallam County Community Service Award.

Kailin's efforts have not always been warmly received, but now approaching her 92nd birthday in January, she voiced no regrets for her long-standing role as champion of the environment and public health.

"If you don't make waves in any quarters, then you are a failure," Kailin said.

Other efforts

She worked to prevent the state from placing park land on the Miller Peninsula, land Mitsubishi eyed for a golf resort. Another effort blocked an off-road vehicle proposal on the same state forestland.

PPF also assisted in sinking efforts to develop petroleum tank farms near Port Angeles.

Kailin and the PPF also have spoken out against the city of Port Angeles' fluoridation of public water, which began in 2006.

As a retired medical doctor who worked as an allergist and immunologist, Kailin sees fluoridation as a public health threat, saying that it does not make water safe for drinking and gives the city the power to medicate the public, which has the right to choose its medication.

The state high court has been asked to review its ruling in favor of Port Angeles by Our Water -- Our Choice and Protect Our Waters. The court has not said if it will review the case.

Before the Rayonier mill on the Port Angeles waterfront shut down in 1997, Kailin worked with state Department of Health officials on data concerning the site, which has been a state Department of Ecology cleanup site since 2000.

She praised Darlene Schanfald, the Olympic Environmental Council Coalition project coordinator for the Rayonier Hazardous Waste Cleanup Project.

"She's done a terrific job," Kailin said.

Schanfald in turn called Kailin her mentor and a "very close friend."

Schanfald said one widely unknown fact about Kailin was her behind-the-scenes influence in changing the face of city government in Sequim, which brought on a new council that shifted from a strong-mayor system to hiring Sequim's first city manager in 1998.

County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, who was just elected to his first term as a 24th District state legislator, said he believes Kailin's biggest victory came with the legal debate that led to Sequim's water reclamation facility.

"Some folks say she hasn't been the positive force that other people have thought, but look at the water reclamation plant," Tharinger said. "That was when she was ahead of her time."

Chemical sensitivities

As a clinical researcher before moving to the Peninsula, she said her first big discovery was that many people have chemical sensitivities.

"Most doctors brushed these people off when they walked in their door, and most still do," she said.

She graduated from George Washington University's School of Medicine in 1943, a time when few women became physicians, and followed in the footsteps of Dr. Theron Randolph in Chicago, who co-founded the Society for Clinical Ecology in 1965.

She advocated in the 1960s for her patients as part of the city's air pollution committee for the District of Columbia Medical Society, later chaired the committee for the Metropolitan Council of Governments for the Washington, D.C., area and often testified on Capitol Hill for the Clean Air Act.

Kailin retired in the Dungeness Valley in 1971 with her husband, Harvey Sr., a longtime U.S. Census Bureau executive who died of heart failure in 1995.

Now Kailin, who must walk gingerly at times with two canes, is no longer seeing patients and has no time for medicine with her second career as an environmental activist.

Her desire?

"It would be that my life would not be boring," she said with a smile. "It would be to always keep an enquiring mind -- always challenge authority."


Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at

Last modified: November 28. 2010 12:07AM
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