PORT ANGELES — City officials have reached a legal milestone in an eight-year effort to clean up the western Port Angeles Harbor.
The next step is an action plan for the cleanup itself.
The City Council voted 6-0 last week to approve an amended participation agreement with other potentially liable parties, or PLPs, and an amended agreed order with the state Department of Ecology that obligates the city and its partners to prepare a draft cleanup action plan for contaminated sediments in the western harbor and lagoon near the foot of Ediz Hook.
“This is quite a milepost on the harbor cleanup,” City Attorney Bill Bloor said in the Nov. 4 meeting.
In 2013, the city agreed to share costs with the Port of Port Angeles and three other PLPs to produce a remedial investigation/feasibility study for removing contaminated sediments from the harbor.
The remedial investigation/feasibility study will be published by Ecology before the end of this year.
“That completes our legal obligation,” Bloor said.
“But, of course, the harbor isn’t cleaned up, and councils in the past have all insisted that our real goal in here is to make sure that the harbor is cleaned up. So the next step is the draft cleanup action plan.”
Ecology officials have said the cleanup would cost $34.4 million. Ecology presented a draft RIFS for the cleanup at an open house in Port Angeles in January.
Officials said it would take six years to remove the toxic sediments from the seafloor with a combination of dredging, capping and natural recovery.
Other potentially liable parties are the Port of Port Angeles, Georgia-Pacific, Nippon and Merrill & Ring, Inc. The PLPs are liable under the Model Toxics Control Act, a state environmental cleanup law.
“The vast majority of city costs are being reimbursed through insurance,” City Manager Nathan West told the council.
“I think that’s really important that we do not want to see our taxpayers, or ratepayers, burdened with the cost associated with this cleanup.”
The western Port Angeles Harbor cleanup is separate from the Ecology-led cleanup of the contaminated Rayonier mill site in the east harbor near the mouth of Ennis Creek.
Several council members said the western harbor cleanup would benefit the environment and the local economy.
“Having a clean harbor increases the amount of fishing, both recreationally and commercially, in and around Port Angeles, which is just an economic driver,” Council member Navarra Carr said.
Sediment in the western harbor is polluted with cadmium, mercury, zinc, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants, according to the Ecology study.
Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said the city and other PLPs should pay their share to achieve a clean and sustainable harbor.
“I think this is going to actually improve quality of life and be beneficial for everybody in Port Angeles,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Council member Mike French said the goal is to clean up the harbor “correctly and once only.”
“We do not want to do this process twice, and that is something we all agreed (to) at the very outset,” French said.
Council member LaTrisha Suggs recused herself from the vote, citing a potential conflict with her work as a restoration planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe.
“I can listen to the discussion, but I won’t participate in it and vote on it due to my employer and there potentially being benefit from it,” Suggs said.
Council member Charlie McCaughan said he was a “little bit scared” to eat crabs from Port Angeles Harbor because of the contamination.
“I’m feeling like I’m having to go to Hood Canal to get my crabs,” McCaughan said. “I’m just being honest.”
The state Department of Health said no more than one serving of Port Angeles Harbor crab should be consumed per week.
The health department has a permanent shellfish closure in Port Angeles Harbor due to sanitary conditions.
“Hopefully in the future we won’t have location-specific advice for Port Angeles Harbor,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at email@example.com.