Port Angeles’ Peninsula Plywood mill site cleanup could begin next year
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Building foundations and piles of concrete rubble remain at the former Peninsula Plywood mill site in Port Angeles. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The process leading to cleanup of the abandoned Peninsula Plywood mill site on the city’s waterfront is moving faster than anticipated.

The prime but polluted 19-acre site could undergo cleanup in 2015 rather than 2017, as projected earlier by the state Department of Ecology, port Director of Environmental Affairs Jeff Robb said Friday.

“Based on our timeline, we are aggressively going after 2015 if it’s achievable and if we can put everything in place, which shouldn’t be too hard,” Robb said.

“We are moving forward very aggressively, and we are going to have that site cleaned up very soon.”

Recent soil sampling of the 439 Marine Drive site was consistent with sampling done of the adjacent marine trades area, which also is on schedule for cleanup in 2015, Robb said.

“We will run concurrent cleanups on both sites,” he added.

Ecology had estimated in October 2012 that cleanup would begin at the end of 2017.

But agency officials agreed Friday that the process is moving more quickly than was originally estimated.

“That is because the port finished field sampling earlier than expected,” Ecology spokeswoman Linda Kent said in an email.

“This has saved several months.

“Depending on what work is needed for final cleanup, some work could possibly begin in 2015.”

Port commission President Jim Hallett said Friday he is optimistic that PenPly and marine trades sites can be marketed in 2015, if not sooner.

“Broadly speaking, the port’s policy direction is to fast-track the cleanup of this PenPly and marine trades site as quickly as possible to put it back to use,” he said.

“I would think [2015] is certainly a target the port is shooting for, and if we can make it happen, so much the better.

“Possibly, before final cleanup is done, we can engage in marketing those sites.”

Port officials have said they want to draw marine-trade businesses to the area.

Port and Ecology officials will meet in two weeks to discuss the port’s preparation of a remedial investigation-feasibility study, also known as an RIFS, a two-part process that consists of field work and a study of cleanup solutions.

“We’ll be discussing the field work that was accomplished and talk to them about some possible remedy-solution, and get a general sense of what the activity might include for developing the draft RIFS report,” Robb said.

“At this point, it’s a communication and discussing in general terms what we will do in developing the RIFS report.”

As part of the field work, soil samples from the 439 Marine Drive parcel were submitted to Ecology in December under a $426,000 contract with Floyd Snider, a Seattle environmental consulting company.

The contract is being paid through the port’s insurance.

During recent field work, hydraulic oil was found where the mill building once stood.

Additional monitoring wells at the water’s edge check on the status of an underground benzene plume.

Benzene is a sweet-smelling component of crude oil.

Exposure can lead to anemia and damage to the immune system.

The wells will ensure there is no pollution discharge into the adjacent harbor, Robb said.

The soil sampling “gave us the ability to define the limits” of the plume and oil, he said.

“We did not find anything unusual.

“Everything is contained, and we are in compliance.”

Rayonier Inc. is no longer monitoring and abating a hydraulic oil spill that occurred underneath the mill when the company, as ITT Rayonier, owned the plant from 1971 to 1989.

“We are doing the monitoring and will work with Rayonier to resolve their liability,” Robb said.

Plywood was manufactured at the site by different companies for seven decades.

As PenPly, the mill closed for good in 2011.

Cleanup project manager Connie Groven is reviewing a Jan. 21 data collection memo from the port, she said.

Once that review is finished, the memo and Ecology officials’ comments will be available for public review in late February or early March, she said.

A review draft remedial investigation-feasibility report is due from the port in May, with the port’s draft cleanup plan expected to go to Ecology in early 2015.

Depending on the extent of the cleanup needed, a public comment period on the draft remedial investigation-feasibility report and the cleanup action plan could occur in mid-2015.

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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: February 02. 2014 6:37PM
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