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Port Angeles Rayonier Mill Site


Background

Rayonier Inc. operated a pulp mill in Port Angeles from 1930 until 1997, when they closed and dismantled it.  Over the years, the mill emitted hazardous substances that still pollute the land and water.  Ecology is working with Rayonier to investigate the contamination and clean up the environment.

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Location

The former pulp mill is located at 700 North Ennis Street in Port Angeles.  The mill property sits on Port Angeles Harbor, at the mouth of Ennis Creek.  Map  (To enlarge photo, please pause briefly for the square orange icon to appear on the bottom right of the next photo, then click it to view the full size photo.)
 
The boundaries of the cleanup site have not yet been set.  The site is defined by the extent of contamination caused by the release of hazardous substances.  Further work is needed to determine where the contamination has reached. 
 
The Study Area is Rayonier’s responsibility to investigate until the full site can be identified.  It is the portion that includes:

  • Property owned or leased by Rayonier; and
  • Marine sediments next to the property.

Ecology is investigating two areas outside of the Study Area to help determine the extent of contamination from Rayonier or other potential sources.

History

The first sawmill on what is currently Rayonier property was built in 1887 and abandoned just six years later.  In 1917, the U.S. Government built a new sawmill to mill spruce for aircraft.  After sitting idle for several years, the mill was bought by Olympic Forest Products in 1929 and rebuilt as a pulp mill.  Rayonier bought the new pulp mill and operated it from 1930 until 1997.
 
The mill produced pulp using what is called a sulfite process.  Sulfite and acid were used to break down wood to get out the cellulose—the fibers that make up paper and other products.  The pulp from the Rayonier mill was sold to companies that made photographic film, fabrics, and plastics.
 
(Look at the timeline for an overview of the site history.  A more detailed history of the mill can be found in the Public Participation Plan.

Contamination

The mill’s pulp-making process involved several industrial chemicals. In the early years, the mill discharged untreated liquid wastes and byproducts (spent cooking liquor) directly into the Port Angeles Harbor.  During the 1970s, the mill began treating this waste water before discharging it.  Primary and secondary treatment systems were put in place and discharges were sent through a deep-water outfall more than a mile offshore in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The mill added sludges from the treatment system to wood chips and burned it to generate steam.
 
When these industrial wastes were released into the environment, they carried pollutants into the air, water, and soil.  These pollutants have been detected within the study area: 

From Operations to Cleanup

Rayonier closed their Port Angeles mill in March of 1997.  That year, a group of individuals and organizations petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the site.  Based on an extensive study, EPA concluded that the site was eligible for the Superfund  program.  However, state and local officials asked that the site be cleaned up under Washington’s Model Toxics Control Act.   In 2000, EPA agreed to defer listing the site on the Superfund list.
 
Under a 1999 agreement with Ecology, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe  has a concurrence role in the cleanup process.  Ecology agrees not to move forward with proposed cleanup decisions without the Tribe’s concurrence.  The Rayonier site holds great significance in terms of cultural resources and natural resources.

Cleanup Activities

In 2002, Ecology and Rayonier entered into an Agreed Order for investigation of the marine portion of the site.  In 2004, they entered into a similar agreement for the upland portion of the site.  For the next few years, Rayonier worked on these investigations, as well as several partial cleanups, called Interim Actions. These actions include soil excavation and removal of concrete foundations and piping, and a fuel tank.  More information about this work can be found on the Interim Actions page.

The investigations for the marine and upland portions of the site do not define the full extent of contamination.  Disagreement over the extent has been a significant factor in the pace of cleanup.  To expedite moving cleanup forward, Ecology and Rayonier signed a new agreement to plan for cleanup of the Study Area – a portion of the site that the parties agree should be investigated.  The Study Area includes the upland property and adjacent marine environment.  However, Rayonier is still liable for cleanup of the entire site—any area where contamination from former mill operations has come to be.

For detailed information about cleanup activities, please visit the Site Cleanup page.  Agreed Orders, work plans, and reports can be found in the Document Archives.

Future Uses of the Property

In 2007, Ecology gave the City of Port Angeles $50,000 in funding to explore visions for the future use of the Rayonier site. The City has brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to begin this process.  In 2009, Ecology provided the city with $230,000 to expand the visioning process and to integrate its combined sewer overflow realignment with cleanup.   More information about this work is available on the Rayonier Mill Agreed Order Amendment webpage and in a 2009 news release.

In 2008, the City of Port Angeles and the Port of Port Angeles partnered to create the Harbor-Works Development Authority.  In 2009, Ecology provided the agency with a $200,000 Integrated Planning Grant  for a study to help it decide whether to purchase the Rayonier property.  In September of 2010, Harbor-Works’ board voted to dissolve.

Ecology also provides Public Participation Grant funding to the Olympic Environmental Council.  The grant is designed to help the organization encourage public participation in the cleanup process.