By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Rebecca Lawson, Ecology's southwest region toxics-cleanup manager, said during a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting Tuesday that the potentially liable parties Ecology has named in the cleanup are close to a draft agreed order that would set the stage for the next step in the cleanup process — which would include deciding how much each party pays.
Ecology has determined the city, Port of Port Angeles, Nippon Paper Industries USA, Georgia Pacific, forestry company Merrill & Ring and the state Department of Natural Resources all bear some responsibility in cleaning up contaminants found at the bottom of the western portion of the harbor during an Ecology study that wrapped up last year.
The 30-day public comment period for the draft agreed order, a legal agreement between the parties involved, could start as early as March 15, Lawson said.
“It could push into April, but we're very close to having an agreement on the agreed order,” Lawson said after the meeting.
About 50 area business owners and resident turned out to hear Lawson speak, all but filling one of the larger seating areas of Joshua's Restaurant on DelGuzzi Drive.
Details of process
The agreed order would allow Ecology and the six potentially liable parties to begin studying how much harbor sediment needs to be removed, what work that would entail and what effects such efforts would have on the surrounding environment and harbor itself, Lawson explained.
Lawson estimated this process, called the remedial investigation and feasibility study, could last until the end of 2014.
The earliest that the cleanup could start would be 2015, Lawson added, though she said the most realistic estimate is 2016.
Lawson fielded questions on how extensive the cleanup process will be and what disturbing the contaminated sediment at the bottom of the western harbor would do to the animals living there.
Bill Roberds, a resident and frequent harbor scuba diver, asked what would be done to minimize the spread of contaminated sediment throughout the harbor via strong currents.
“What bothers me is that we're going to kill that entire harbor if we start kicking stuff up,” Roberds said.
Lawson said multiple measures exist for cleaning sediment from the bottom of harbors and preventing its spread, such as large silt curtains deployed around where sediment would be disturbed, and that such concerns would be addressed in the feasibility study.
“Your point is a very good one,” Lawson told Roberds at the meeting.
Ecology's study found that the harbor sediment contained pollutants, such as arsenic and mercury, associated with past industrial activities.
At the meeting, Lawson also addressed the ongoing cleanup process on the former mill site owned by Rayonier Inc. east of downtown Port Angeles.
Lawson said Rayonier has completed collecting data on what contaminants exist on the upland area of the site and is in the process of doing the same for the marine portion.
The deadline for the marine data report is March 18, Lawson added.
“We do have a schedule, and we're working through it,” she said.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.