Department of Ecology News Release - December 16, 2014

Study explores contaminated Port Angeles sediments

OLYMPIA – Samples taken from Port Angeles Harbor show toxic contamination spread throughout the marine environment near the former Rayonier Mill site.

Today, the Department of Ecology released a report that summarizes data collected about contamination on part of the mill site.

The Marine Data Summary Report details the amount and type of contamination in the marine portions of the study area. It includes data from earlier studies, such as Ecology’s Port Angeles Harbor Sediments Study (completed in 2012). This report, along with data about the upland portion of the study area, will help Rayonier Advanced Materials develop a plan for cleaning up the study area. The study area includes the 75-acre former mill property (upland) and about 1,300 acres of marine environment.

The amount and type of contamination varies across the marine portion of the study area. The highest levels of contamination are in the eastern part of the log pond area and near the mill dock. These are also the areas where sediments were the most toxic to marine organisms.

The report includes data from surface and subsurface sediment, tissue from marine life such as crabs and clams, and bioassays that exposed clam larva and small crustaceans to sediment samples. Pollutants found included mercury and arsenic, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phthalates, phenols, semi-volatile organic compounds, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Studies also show wood debris on the sea floor.

Ecology released Rayonier’s upland data report in 2013. It showed that the amount and type of contamination varies across the upland. Past partial cleanups removed more than 30,000 tons of contaminated soil, leaving only lower levels of contamination across much of the upland.

In the upland, Rayonier found PAHs, dioxins and furans, or toxic metals in soil, groundwater and surface water. In subsurface soil, defined as deeper than 2 feet, the study found PAHs and PCBs. Some PCBs also were found at low levels in groundwater. Rayonier also found some areas of low and high pH in groundwater. The pH scale measures a material’s acid or alkaline content.

The Rayonier study area is being cleaned up under an agreed order, which is a legal agreement to conduct a remedial investigation and to evaluate cleanup options. The remedial investigation evaluates the extent of contamination. A document called a feasibility study details cleanup options.

Rayonier Advanced Materials is on schedule with its agreed order tasks. The company’s next deadline is Feb. 9, 2015, when a draft analysis of cleanup options is due.

Ecology will hold a public comment period in 2015 when Rayonier’s analysis of study area cleanup options is available, in addition to the marine and upland data reports. Ecology is making the marine and upland reports available for review now so that the public has more time to review the lengthy reports. Questions about the cleanup and report can be addressed to site manager Marian Abbett at marian.abbett@ecy.wa.gov.  

Review the study

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Contact:

Marian Abbett, site manager, 360-407-6257, @ecologyWA