Field survey work will be taking place at the dock and shoreline area of the former Rayonier Mill site in Port Angeles later this month. (Dave Pitman/Olympic Aerial Solutions)

Field survey work will be taking place at the dock and shoreline area of the former Rayonier Mill site in Port Angeles later this month. (Dave Pitman/Olympic Aerial Solutions)

Heavy equipment crews to dig test pits for soil samples

PORT ANGELES — Crews will begin field surveys this month at the long-dormant Rayonier mill site for the eventual removal of the dock and jetty there and a cleanup of contaminated sediment in Port Angeles Harbor, state officials said.

Rebecca Lawson, a toxics cleanup manager for the state Department of Ecology, said crews with heavy equipment will dig test pits to evaluate the subsurface conditions along the shoreline at the mill site east of downtown Port Angeles.

“There will be a barge out there collecting some sediment samples, that kind of work,” Lawson added Wednesday.

“Since there hasn’t been any real activity out there for a while, people may notice and wonder what’s going on.”

The field surveys are expected to take place this month and in September, Lawson said.

No specific dates for the work were available.

Lawson said the field survey work is a “necessary first step and will set the stage for cleanup” of the site.

The field surveys are being conducted jointly by Rayonier Advanced Materials and the state Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ecology.

“The information that they collect will help finalize the plan to remove the dock and the jetty, and then remove some fill material along the shoreline and then restore that shoreline to something that’s more friendly to the fish and the marine environment,” said Lawson, Ecology’s southwest region toxics cleanup program manager.

“That work is being done as part of Rayonier’s lease agreement with DNR.”

Creosote-treated wood pilings will be removed as part of the effort to restore the shoreline.

“As part of that project, we’re going to be working with Rayonier to implement the sediments portion of the cleanup for the Rayonier mill site,” Lawson said in a telephone interview.

“Logistically, those things need to happen in concert.”

Cleanup of the former Rayonier Inc. pulp mill site began in 2000. Rayonier operated a plant at the foot of Ennis Street from 1930 to 1997.

The site was contaminated with toxins including dioxins, mercury, arsenic and PCBs.

The worst of the contamination was removed in a 34,000-ton dig-up of the soil.

Given the permitting requirements, removal of the dock and jetty will likely begin in 2021, Lawson said.

Lawson would not hazard a guess on when the entire cleanup of the mill site would be completed.

“Rayonier will probably start the permitting process early next year,” Lawson said of the dock and jetty project.

Much of the upland property at the site is owned by Rayonier.

In-water area near the dock and jetty are owned by the state and managed by DNR through a lease agreement, Lawson said.

“The site work will support the engineering design of the plan to remove the marine structures and restore the shoreline,” said Carla Yetter, vice president of sustainability for Rayonier Advanced Materials, in a joint news release with Ecology and DNR.

“This is a necessary and exciting step forward.”

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who heads DNR, described the field surveys as “an exciting milestone that will lead us in a positive direction that works for the environment and the community.”

“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Ecology and Rayonier Advanced Materials, as well as local tribes and the community, as a restoration plan is crafted,” Franz said in the release.

Ecology last month released a 414-page technical report that describes alternatives for cleanup of soil and groundwater in the upland area and marine sediments near the former mill.

The Volume 3 “Cleanup Alternatives Evaluation Report” is available at www.tinyurl.com/PDN-Rayonier.

Ecology next month will begin a 60-day public comment period on the three technical reports and conduct a public meeting on the cleanup in Port Angeles, Lawson said.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 25 and the location will be announced, Lawson said.

“From the public perspective, it might seem like it’s all just one big project,” Lawson said of the dock and jetty removal and the overall site cleanup.

“That will be happening concurrently, or in some phased fashion.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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