The former loading dock and breakwater at the former Rayonier pulp mill, shown Saturday, are among the few structures still intact at the site east of downtown Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The former loading dock and breakwater at the former Rayonier pulp mill, shown Saturday, are among the few structures still intact at the site east of downtown Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles city manager outlines objections to Rayonier cleanup proposal

PORT ANGELES — City staff members plan to submit comments by Tuesday’s deadline objecting to the state Department of Ecology’s preferred alternative for cleaning up the former Rayonier pulp mill site, the city manager said.

Port Angeles City Manager Nathan West said that the preferred approach “effectively creates a landfill on the highest and most usable portion of the Rayonier site and it creates a landfill in perpetuity.”

The proposal covers the 75-acre industrial site on the waterfront on the east side of Port Angeles Harbor and harbor water.

Under Volume 3 of the plan, more than 1 foot of 0.5 acres of mill site would be excavated, while 10 acres would be excavated to 1 foot on an industrial section that is mostly covered with cement. Another 10 acres of polluted area would be capped.

“The community has a desire to see that site utilized in the future” and is interested in “a diversity of possibilities,” West said Friday as he described the first of three points city staff plan to make.

“We can’t afford to have it fenced off with a big pile of contamination.”

The plan is available for review at tinyurl.com/PDN-Rayonier Cleanup; comments also can be posted there.

Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s southwest region manager, said last month that the agency agreed to extend the comment period to Tuesday, from its deadline of Oct. 28, at the request of Sequim resident and cleanup-plan critic Darlene Schanfald of the Olympic Environmental Council Coalition.

She and land conservationist Robbie Mantooth wanted the public to have an opportunity to become acquainted with the views of Peter deFur, an Henrico, Va. environmental scientist who focuses on contaminated-site cleanup plans, as well as to post their own comments on the proposal.

DeFur, a technical advisor to the OECC, said in his comment letter that complete excavation is the only option that provides a long-term solution.

Schanfald has said she favors removing all contaminated soil from the site.

Lawson has said that it is not required. and not “practicable” to return the site “to some pristine state.”

West said that city staff feel that any approach Ecology approves must be permanent “so we don’t see Rayonier or another entity coming in to do this process over.”

Cleanup responsibilities for the site switched to Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. (Rayonier AM) in 2014 when it split off from Rayonier Inc.

The cleanup of the site has been in progress for some 19 years. The mill, Clallam County’s largest employer, closed Feb. 28, 1997 after 67 years of operation.

“We have seen this process take so long” that city staff do not want to see a new plan created, West said.

“Either choose another” preferred alternative or design a new one that fulfills community needs.”

“We can’t afford for them to backtrack.”

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

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