USA: Department of Ecology Seeks Public Input on Port of Olympia Cleanup

The Department of Ecology (Ecology) is inviting the public to comment on a proposed amended Agreed Order for investigating sediments that are potentially contaminated with dioxins at the Port of Olympia (port).

This legal agreement requires the port to investigate and plan for cleaning up contamination in an expanded study area surrounding the port peninsula.

The original 2008 Agreed Order required the Port to remove a portion of dioxin-contaminated sediment from two shipping berths. The order amendment expands the study boundaries to include an area that surrounds the north end of the port peninsula and includes portions of East and West Bays in Budd Inlet.

The public can review and comment on the amended Agreed Order plan from Jan. 13 through Feb. 13, 2012.

The amended Agreed Order requires the port to:

-Study the nature, extent and possible sources of contamination in the expanded study area.

-Submit a report to Ecology with the investigation results.

-Evaluate possible cleanup actions in the study area based on the new investigation as well as information from dredging done in 2009.

-Develop an interim action plan, or partial clean-up plan for cleaning up contaminated sediments in all or part of the study area. Dioxins were originally found in the port’s shipping berth sediments in 2007 when the port was preparing for a regularly scheduled maintenance dredge.

This prompted a more extensive Ecology study, which showed varying concentrations of dioxins throughout Budd Inlet, from the surface down to several feet beneath the inlet’s floor. The study found dioxins at levels as high as 230.6 and 4,212.5 parts per trillion (ppt) at the port shipping berths. For comparison, the natural background for dioxins in Puget Sound is 4 ppt.

Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds and are found nearly everywhere in the environment. They are the by-product of human and natural activities such as incineration, forest fires, certain types of chemical manufacturing and processing, and other industrial processes. They can cause health problems depending upon the exposure amount and time frame.

As part of the original Agreed Order, from January to February 2009 the port conducted dredging and removed about 9,515 cubic yards of contaminated sediments. The port disposed of them in an Oregon landfill. The port completed post-dredge monitoring under the original Agreed Order in 2011.

This site is not the only Puget Sound site that needs to be cleaned up. In fact, decades of industrial, municipal and naturally occurring pollution have damaged the quality and ecology of the Sound. In 2007 Gov. Christine Gregoire and the Washington State Legislature approved the Puget Sound Initiative to protect and restore the health of the Sound by 2020. One of the initiative’s objectives is to clean up contaminated sites within one-half mile upland of the Sound.

Alexandra K. Smith, senior environmental program manager for the Port of Olympia said: “The port looks forward to working in partnership with the Department of Ecology to remove legacy contamination from sediments in the vicinity of the Port Peninsula and to investigating potential ongoing sources of contamination to sediments in Budd Inlet.” Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s Southwest Region toxics cleanup manager, said: “The work that the port will do under this order will set the stage to reduce pollution in Budd Inlet and Puget Sound and help restore shorelines and habitat. We are pleased to work with the port toward our common goal of improving the health of the Sound.”

In all, Ecology is working to clean up eight contaminated sites throughout Budd Inlet, an effort that will reduce the overall amount of toxins in the inlet and Puget Sound.

Ecology will respond to public comments and questions about the amended Agreed Order for the site after the comment period closes. People also will have the chance to comment on all future cleanup plans. For example, Ecology will put the draft interim action plan and the legal agreement for it out for public comment.


Dredging Today Staff, January 13, 2012;