By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — A newly released study shows that the former Rayonier pulp mill contributed significantly to dioxin levels in Port Angeles.
The report released Wednesday by the state Department of Ecology found traces of the contaminant from the mill in all but four of 85 samples taken in fall 2008.
It found that a “large contribution” of the dioxin in many of the samples originated from the mill.
Forty samples were found to exceed the minimal cleanup level of 11 parts per trillion.
Without dioxin from the mill, the excessive samples would have totaled 12, the report said.
Rebecca Lawson, the regional head of Ecology's toxics cleanup program, said she thinks the presence of the dioxins from the mill is significant enough to warrant cleanup by the company.
But when that occurs is to be determined.
“While they are above what our standard is, they're not so high that we think we have to go out and take immediate action,” Lawson said, adding that Ecology's priority is cleaning up the mill site.
Ecology has set a late 2013 deadline for the development of a cleanup plan for the 75-acre site and 1,325 acres of Port Angeles Harbor.
“At the end of the day, it will all come together to be a complete cleanup for the entire site,” Lawson said.
The mill operated for 68 years at the mouth of Ennis Creek before closing in 1997.
The report is the second and last phase of Ecology's “Rayonier Mill Off-Property Soil Dioxin Study.”
The first phase, completed in early 2009, simply assessed how much dioxin was found in the 85 samples.
The most recent and frequently delayed phase determined the sources of the chemical.
Other sources include tire burning, herbicide and general “urban soils.”
The dioxin attributed to Rayonier is produced through hog fuel boilers, which the mill used for energy.
It is also found in its highest concentrations near the mill.
Comments on the study will be accepted through Aug. 30.
Public meetings will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Port Angeles Senior Center, 328 E. Seventh St.
Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.