Julia Smith and Rick Head of rural Port Angeles look over charts depicting industrial contamination in Port Angeles Harbor on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Julia Smith and Rick Head of rural Port Angeles look over charts depicting industrial contamination in Port Angeles Harbor on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Harbor cleanup discussed

Project expected to take six years to complete

PORT ANGELES — Sediment cleanup in west Port Angeles Harbor will cost $34.4 million and take six years to complete under a proposal shared during an open house.

State Department of Ecology officials presented recommended alternatives contained in a 941-page remedial investigation/feasibility study for the long-planned cleanup of toxic materials during a two-hour open house at Olympic Medical Center on Tuesday.

The recommended alternatives for the three sediment management areas — or cleanup sites — would be a combination of dredging and capping and enhanced monitored natural recovery of the seafloor.

“This would take six years, or six construction seasons, to complete,” Ecology Project Manager Connie Groven told 57 attendees at OMC’s Linkletter Hall.

“And following that, there would still be monitoring to make sure that the cleanup is effective and it meets the cleanup level in those enhanced monitored natural recovery areas in the 10 years that are estimated.”

Enhanced monitored natural recovery is a way to “jump start” nature by laying down a six-inch layer of clean material on the seafloor.

“We don’t completely wipe out the benthic communities (organisms that live in and on the bottom of the ocean floor), and we don’t wipe out important habitat like eelgrass, which happens when we dredge and cap,” Groven said.

“Yes, eventually those would recolonize and hopefully the habitats would return, but it would take a while with dredging and capping.”

Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Steve Burke looks over proposals to clean up industrial contamination on the west end of Port Angeles Harbor during an open house hosted by the Washington Department of Ecology on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at Olympic Medical Center. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Steve Burke looks over proposals to clean up industrial contamination on the west end of Port Angeles Harbor during an open house hosted by the Washington Department of Ecology on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at Olympic Medical Center. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Ecology is seeking public comments on its remedial investigation/feasibility study, or RIFS, and an amended agreed order with five potentially liable parties though March 16.

The documents and comment submittal forms are available at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-harbor.

The five potentially liable parties, or PLPs, are the city of Port Angeles, Port of Port Angeles, Georgia-Pacific, Nippon and Merrill & Ring, Inc.

The five parties signed an agreed order with Ecology in 2013 to work together to do the remedial investigation and feasibility study, Groven said.

“We refer to them as the western Port Angeles Harbor group, and they’ve done a good job working together,” Groven said.

City officials have said each potentiality liable party should be responsible for its share of the contamination.

“The parties that are involved in this are going forward with an allocation process, and we hope that that allocation process will be competed by June of this year,” City Attorney Bill Bloor told the City Council last week.

The western Port Angeles Harbor site is separate from the Ecology-led cleanup of the contaminated Rayonier mill site to its east.

“We are working on the western Port Angles Harbor site in parallel with the Rayonier mill cleanup,” Ecology Section Manager Rebecca Lawson said at the open house.

“Again, Ecology remains committed to get to cleanup and restoration of the whole harbor.”

Ecology will review public comments before finalizing the documents for the western harbor. It will then issue a draft cleanup action plan and open another public comment period, Groven said.

Groven began her slide presentation by showing a 1977 aerial photo of Port Angeles Harbor.

“Over the past 150 years, we’ve seen sawmills and plywood manufacturing, and marinas and boat building and paper and pulp mills and bulk fuel plants,” Groven said.

“It’s a busy place.”

The sediment in the western harbor is polluted with cadmium, mercury, zinc, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or cPAHs, and other contaminates, according to the study.

Here are the preferred alternatives for the three sediment management areas, or SMAs:

• A subtidal capping of the 33-acre SMA 1 near the McKinley mill. The intertidal area would be partially excavated and capped.

This alternative would cost $12 million and take two construction seasons to complete.

• An intertidal capping with subtidal enhanced monitored natural recovery for the 22-acre saltwater lagoon near the mill.

This alternative would cost $7 million and take two construction seasons.

• Enhanced monitored natural recovery for 164 acres in the western harbor and monitored natural recovery for the west and west-central harbor.

This alternative would cost $15.4 million and take six years to construct. It would take 10 years to reach desired cleanup levels, Ecology officials said.

Because of in-water work windows designed to protect spawning and migrating fish, construction can only occur between mid-July to mid-February, Groven said.

“If you count up those days, and you take out your weekends and your holidays, you come up with about 127 days a year that you’re allowed to actually work in the water,” Groven said.

Barges could move an estimated 500 cubic yards of material per day, resulting in about 30 truck loads daily, Groven said.

“Certainly the closest place that clean material can be obtained would be used,” Groven said in response to a question from Darlene Schanfald of the Olympic Environmental Council Coalition.

“I don’t think an exact location has been identified, but I’m sure the western Port Angeles Harbor group would be looking for the closest place to get adequate clean material.”

Dean Throop said Ecology cleanup projects often exceed cost estimates and could cost the city more money and “ruin local utility rates.”

“These costs are not appreciated in a small town,” Throop said.

“Isn’t there some other place that you could go help?”

Lawson reminded the audience that three of the five potentially liable parties are private companies.

“Ecology’s not really privy to which PLP is paying how much of the cost,” Lawson said.

“I do know that Ecology does have a remedial action grant program that can help fund the cleanup costs that are borne by the local governments, by the city and the port.”

Prior to the open house, Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Steve Burke told Port Angeles Business Association (PABA) members that the harbor cleanup was a “big deal.”

“We’re going to get one stab at cleanup of our harbor, and this is it,” Burke said while urging PABA members to attend the open house.

The Port Angeles City Council heard a Jan. 21 presentation on the recommended alternatives from Linda Baker of Integral Consulting, which the city hired for the western harbor cleanup project in 2012.

City Manager Nathan West said the city’s goal is to ensure a complete cleanup of the harbor.

“Also, council has really expressed the importance of sound science, making sure that if we’re going to incorporate or have to pay any portion of those costs that we do so based on sound science that’s in the best interest of public health locally,” West said at the Jan. 21 meeting.

“If you look at the Rayonier project, knowing that that has been in place and moving forward since 1997, the fact that we started in 2012 and we’re in virtually the same place (as the Rayonier project), I think that that’s something that we should celebrate.”

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

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