Neighbors’ gas, diesel pipeline leakage main pollutant at PenPly mill site
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All that’s left of the former Peninsula Plywood mill on the Port Angeles waterfront are concrete foundations, some ground covers and rubble. —Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Fuel that had nothing to do with industrial production was a major source of pollution at a mill that churned out plywood at 439 Marine Drive for most of 70 years, according to a recent environmental cleanup report.

Eight different bulk gasoline and diesel plants in the shoreline area of the former Peninsula Plywood mill fed leaky pipelines under the 19-acre site on downtown’s western edge, Connie Groven, state Department of Ecology site manager, said Friday.

The mill, which opened in 1941, closed in financial ruin in 2011 after operating under various owners.

“There certainly is a large amount of gasoline under there,” Groven said.

“You’ve got an industrial area with all sorts of pipelines.”

Hydraulic oil, which was used extensively in the mill’s three presses, joins the leaked gasoline and diesel fuel as the main sources of pollution destined for overall cleanup, which could begin in about 18 months, Groven said.

“Once a cleanup action plan is finalized and we design a remedy and scheduling, as aggressively as the port has been moving on cleanup, I would think we could have the cleanup begin by the end of 2015,” she said.

The locations of pollutants were pinpointed in a 412-page Draft Supplemental Data Collection Technical Memorandum submitted to Ecology by the Port of Port Angeles, which owns the property and wants to market it for marine trades.

Ecology accepted the report in February.

The pollutants lie mostly in soil and groundwater underneath what was the main mill building, according to the data report, which contains charts that point to specific locations.

Most of the gasoline is under a large concrete pad on the south side of the property closer to Marine Drive.

Groven said she expects the concrete pad will be broken up and disposed of as part of cleanup and preparation of the site for a new tenant or tenants.

The hydraulic oil was discovered on the north edge of the property, likely dripping from presses and through a metal-plated wooden floor, Groven said.

The data report, available at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-mill-site, is part of the port’s draft remedial investigation-feasibility study, or RIFS, which Ecology is reviewing.

Draft versions of the remedial plan, a cleanup plan and an agreed order between the port and Ecology covering that cleanup should be available for public comment by early in 2015, Groven said.

The draft remedial plan evaluates contamination on the site, including its location and quantity; presents alternatives for the cleanup; and identifies a preferred alternative.

Ecology hopes to send its comments and revisions on the draft plan to the port in July, Groven said.

The port has two months to revise it and resubmit it to Ecology for final review and subsequent public review in October — though not public comment, not just yet, she said.

Ecology first will also prepare the draft cleanup action plan that will identify the specific cleanup plan and how that will be carried out.

“Because we both have to agree and sign a plan to move forward, we will be working with the port in a cooperative process here, but Ecology does have the final say,” Groven said.

“It will outline steps for them to take.”

Ecology also will need to first negotiate a new agreed order with the port to implement the cleanup action plan.

A draft remedial investigation-feasibility study, a draft cleanup plan and draft agreed order all will go out for public comment in February or March, Groven predicted.

“It could even be sooner because the port has been beating their deadlines,” she said.

Ecology’s final approval of all three documents will largely depend on the level of public comment they generate, Groven said.

“It might take us longer to address all the comments and make revisions, if necessary,” she said.

Jeff Robb, the port’s director of environmental affairs, did not return calls for comment Friday on the project.

“We’ve been working with Ecology to move forward with cleanup as quickly as is possible,” Chris Hartman, port director of engineering, said Friday.

“There’s been kind of an unprecedented number of borings and wells and stuff installed on that site, from the port’s perspective and Ecology’s perspective.

“It will have a high economic impact on the community when it’s put back into productive use.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 21. 2014 5:52PM
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