State agrees to extend comment period on Rayonier site cleanup

PORT ANGELES — The state Department of Ecology has agreed to extend the comment period on a proposed $24 million cleanup plan for the long-dormant Rayonier pulp mill site at the urging of an environmental activist, an Ecology official said last week.

Rebecca Lawson, the agency’s southwest region manager, said the comment period was extended from Monday to Nov. 26 at the request of Sequim resident and cleanup-plan critic Darlene Schanfald of the Olympic Environmental Council Coalition.

Lawson said that as of last week, only about 12 comments had been received on the proposal, available for review at tinyurl.com/PDN-RayonierCleanup, where people can also post comments.

The proposal covers the 75-acre industrial site and adjacent waters of Port Angeles Harbor.

Lawson said Schanfald was concerned that Peter deFur, an Henrico, Va. environmental scientist who focuses on contaminated-site cleanup plans, would not be able to submit his comments on the site by the original Oct. 28 deadline.

DeFur, a technical advisor to the OECC, dated his six-page comment document Oct. 20.

Final Comments 2019 by Mark Swanson on Scribd

The comment period already had been set at 60 days, twice as long as the usual 30-day period, Lawson said.

She said land conservationist Robbie Mantooth also had inquired about the comment period.

“The short story is, we got a request to extend the comment period and we are trying to be open and transparent, so we are extending it to Nov. 26,” Lawson said.

“Ninety days ought to give everyone who wants to, to have a chance to provide comments.”

The pulp mill shut down in 1997, with cleanup occurring since the early 2000s.

Schanfald said she and Mantooth wanted the public to have time to read deFur’s comments.

“We didn’t ask for more time for Peter, we asked for more time so the public had a chance to read the technical report that we put out,” she said.

“Our point was to see that the public had a chance to understand what the issues were in a simple documents and see the options of cleanup so they would have a better understanding.

“It’s not atypical to get an extension when commenting.

“I would think the agencies would have liked more time.

“It’s a huge document and takes a lot of time to go through.”

Preferred cleanup options include dredging the harbor floor and capping upland pollution.

Under Volume 3 of the plan, the focus of Ecology’s Sept. 25 public meeting in Port Angeles, 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.

Schanfald said at the Sept. 25 meeting she favors removing all contaminated soil from the site.

Lawson responded that what Schanfald favors is not required.

She said it would not be “practicable” to return the site “to some pristine state.”

Lawson said removal of a 4-acre dock and sediment mitigation work could begin as soon as 2021 and take five to seven more years to complete the cleanup.

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

“The complete excavation offers the advantages of no maintenance, no monitoring and no additional liability for the company or effort for the agency,” he said.

Contaminated sediment also should be removed from the log pond, he said.

“It is clear that permanence needs to be given the highest priority.”

The former pulp mill site is now owned by Jacksonville, Fla.,-based Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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