Ecology expects tests of fluid at Port Angeles log yard by mid-April

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Ecology will complete its testing of soil and water at the Port of Port Angeles’ Merrill &Ring log yard by mid-April.

Ecology officials said they launched their investigation in response to an area resident’s assertion that the company was dumping 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid daily on the Port of Port Angeles’ property at William R. Fairchild International Airport west of Port Angeles.

Steve Reinhart had claimed the company’s debarker “takes on 50 gallons of hydraulic oil every day and that it spills to the ground underneath the debarker,” according to a Department of Ecology Incident Detail Report.

In a later interview, Reinhart said he received his information about the alleged dumping “fifth-hand.”

Kevin Hancock, an Ecology water quality permit manager who visited the site Feb. 28, said Thursday there were no signs of an excessive hydraulic spill around the equipment.

He said a concentration of that magnitude was unlikely because the debarker tank holds up to 40 gallons of hydraulic fluid, meaning it would have to deposit its entire contents every 24 hours.

Hancock said Ecology had classified Reinhart’s assertion as a complaint.

“I do not suspect a discharge of 50 gallons a day of hydraulic fluid,” said Hancock, a certified motor mechanic.

“I believe I saw normal operations for a facility of that type.

“I did not see any signs of that machine falling apart or creating a big leak or needing repairs.”

Hancock and hydrologist Kirsten Alvarez also took water and soil samples from the property.

Test results will be available in about a month, Hancock said.

Water from the site empties from two outfalls into Dry Creek.

Water that had pooled on the property was turbid and black, consistent with log yard activity in which bacteria in the water reacts to sugars in wood waste, Hancock said.

The “bacteria poop” reaction creates a sheen-like appearance that leaves the water smelling like a sewer, Hancock said.

“Lots of folks mistake it for oil,” he said.

“If you touch a sheen and it breaks into pieces and stays broken in pieces, it’s from bacteria.

“If you touch a sheen and it goes back together, it’s oil.”

The water samples were taken from an outfall on the edge of the log yard where it flows onto airport property.

Hancock said the tests will show if diesel fuel, lubrication or hydraulic fluid is present.

Hydraulic fluid would show up in the soil samples tested by Ecology but not the water samples, Hancock added.

Port Finance Director John Nutter said Thursday that five soil samples were sent to Spectra Laboratories in Tacoma. The company could not differentiate between lubrication and hydraulic oil.

The port took 15 more soil samples that were sent to ALS Environmental of Everett.

The soil samples were tested through chromatography, in which liquids are separated into chemical components.

The results show up on a chromatogram.

“The first chomatogram is of a hydraulic oil standard, the second is of a motor oil standard, (aka Lube oil,)” ALS Laboratory Director Rick Bagan said in an email to Port Environmental Manager Jesse Waknitz that was released by the port.

“Your samples are pretty clearly a good match with the lube oil standards.”

Hancock said an 8-square-foot patch of diesel fuel on the property that appeared to be the product of “drips and drabs” from trucks coming and going — not a spill from a single source — will have to be addressed by the port.

“It was higher than the benchmark, but it wasn’t singing super high,” Hancock said.

The concentration was five times higher than the level allowed by the Model Toxics Control Act that Merrill &Ring will have to address, Nutter said in an earlier interview.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.