Port Angeles to Mull Sediment Agreement

By Jeremy Schwarz, March 31, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

An agreement that would allow sampling of pollution in western Port Angeles Harbor to begin this June will come before Port Angeles City Council members when they meet Tuesday.

The agreement, if City Council members approve, would solidify the way the city will work with the Port of Port Angeles and four private companies to scrutinize the effects on the environment of the contaminants in sediment at the bottom of the western portion of Port Angeles Harbor.

The City Council meeting will start at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St.

Port of Port Angeles commissioners approved the agreement March 25, alongside a $1.8 million contract with Seattle-based consulting firm Floyd Snyder Inc. to coordinate what’s called the remedial investigation of contaminants in the harbor and a feasibility study on how best to remove the substances.

According to the terms of the agreement, the
$1.8 million contract cost will be split evenly among the port, the city and Georgia Pacific, with each entity paying $450,000.

The remaining two participants in the agreement, Nippon Paper Industries USA and timber and land management company Merrill & Ring, will split their $450,000 share between them.

“The [agreement participants] have divided it up into four shares, so the city is going to pay on fourth share of the work that has to be done for the remedial investigation and feasibility study,” Port Angeles City Attorney Bill Bloor said Friday.

The state Department of Ecology has identified these entities and the state Department of Natural Resources as responsible for cleaning up contaminants, such as toxic heavy metals and other substances left over from industrial wood process, built up in the sediment of the western end of the city harbor.

The Port of Port Angeles will act as the cashier for any money spent on the investigation and study efforts, Bloor explained.

“It just simplifies the bookkeeping so much to have one entity doing it,” Bloor said.

The city expects its total share for the remedial investigation and feasibility study process — slated to be completed by December 2014 — to cost $1 million and has implemented a 30-month surcharge on city resident utility bills to help pay for it.

The city could also get a $400,000 grant from Ecology, which is administering the entire cleanup process, although this money is dependent on final approval of the state’s 2013-2015 budget, according to Nathan West, the city’s community and economic development director.

“Until the state budget is officially approved, we don’t know for certain whether that will be available to us,” West said.

“But it’s something we’re quite happy about.”

The City Council vote scheduled this week comes after officials with Ecology hosted an open house Thursday detailing what this summer’s sediment sampling will entail.

Connie Groven, Ecology’s site manager for the western Port Angeles Harbor cleanup effort, told a crowd of about 30 people at Olympic Medical Center that the sampling will focus on a handful of areas that Ecology’s sediment investigation, which wrapped up last year, did not address.

“[The 2008] study was not designed to be a complete remedial investigation but more of a comprehensive overview so we could understand if there were areas that needed more attention,” Groven said.

This June’s sampling work, expected to take three or four weeks, will answer, among other issues, how the contaminants found in the harbor are affecting plant and animal life and figure out if there are any ongoing sources of contamination, Groven explained.

“We certainly don’t want to do a cleanup project with new contamination going on,” Groven said, adding that the initial study suggests the contamination sources are historic.

Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s southwest region toxics cleanup manager, said the parties will use the sampling results to produce a data report, which will in turn allow the remedial investigation report and feasibility study to be developed, a process expected to take about a year.

“Realistically, once plans are developed, probably the earliest that any cleanup will actually happen in the harbor is summer of 2015,” Lawson said.

“And that’s pretty optimistic.”

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