Ecology Releases Port Angeles Harbor Pollution Study Reports (USA)

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) released two draft reports detailing the results of a large-scale sediment sampling effort in Port Angeles Harbor. Ecology began this study in 2008 as part of the Puget Sound Initiative, a joint effort of Gov. Gregoire and the Legislature to restore the Sound’s health by 2020.

A public comment period on the draft reports begins Feb. 23 and runs through March 23, 2012. Ecology will hold a public open house and presentation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on March 13, 2012, at the Olympic Medical Center’s Linkletter Hall for interested community members to learn more about the reports and their findings.

The purpose of the sediment study is to understand the distribution of chemical contamination and wood debris in the harbor and identify likely sources of this contamination. Port Angeles has a long industrial history that contributed to the harbor’s pollution.

Some of the major chemical contaminants found include dioxins and poly-chlorinated biphenyls, commonly called PCBs, both of which can persist in the environment for decades. Dioxins and PCBs are endocrine disruptors, may cause reproductive and development effects, and are potential carcinogens. Other contaminants include toxic metals as well as ammonia and sulfides from decomposing wood debris, all which are harmful to plants and animals.

The largest contamination “hotspots” are in the inner harbor and near the former Rayonier pulp mill, in the eastern part of the harbor.

The results of the study will help Ecology determine entities responsible for the contamination. In addition, some of the data will be used for the Rayonier Mill cleanup already in progress.

Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s regional manager for the Toxics Cleanup Program, said: “Although this study took longer than we anticipated, it gives us enough evidence to begin talks with those potentially liable for cleanup in the harbor. We were tasked with helping to clean up Puget Sound by 2020 and these reports are a major step towards that goal.” Copies of the draft reports are at the Port Angeles Public Library, Peninsula College Library and Ecology’s office in Lacey.

Dredging Today Staff, February 16, 2012