Ecology: PenPly cleanup could take five years
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Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News
State Department of Ecology site manager Connie Groven, Ecology regional program manager Rebecca Lawson, Tom Butler of Port Angeles and Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Paul McHugh, from left, attend Monday's open house. Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily Ne

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — It may be the year after the next presidential election — the one in 2016 — before 19 acres of prime though polluted Marine Drive mill property just west of downtown is ready for development.

That's what Rebecca Lawson, a regional manager for the state Department of Ecology toxics-cleanup program, said at a public open house on the mill site's future.

The draft agreed order with Ecology that lays out the cleanup tasks of the Port of Port Angeles, which is responsible for ridding the former Peninsula Plywood site of pollution, was discussed at the open house Monday at Olympic Medical Center's Linkletter Hall.

About a dozen people attended, more than half of whom were Ecology, port and city officials.

The agreement between Ecology and the port, which owns the property, says that a final draft cleanup action plan must be ready by May 2015, while a final investigation of pollutants at the 70-year-old industrial site and a feasibility study on the cleanup won't be due until August 2015.

A subsequent agreed order between Ecology and the port — that could take six months to put together “if it goes quickly” — will cover the final cleanup, Lawson said.

But it's too early to say if areas of the property can be developed while cleanup is taking place, Ecology's on-site cleanup site manager, Connie Groven, said Tuesday.

The agreement discussed Monday does not include a timeline for total cleanup.

“I would think that once we have a final cleanup action plan, I would hope it wouldn't take more than two years to get the cleanup done,” Lawson said.

“That probably puts us to the end of 2017, I would guess.”

Lawson said the extent of pollution is unknown, making it hard to determine a timeline.

Much of the pollution is in groundwater and beneath buildings that will be torn down beginning later this year.

“We need to make sure the public knows it is an estimate,” Lawson said.

“We're not trying to evade anything; we just don't know what needs to be done.”

Port officials anxious to develop the site were ebullient over Lawson's announcement at their regular meeting earlier Tuesday that Ecology is making available a $2 million state grant for cleanup and that more grants will be available when the 2013-1015 biennium begins next summer.

Port and Ecology officials worked out an agreed order faster than expected, and grant assistance was not anticipated until next year, port Commissioner Jim Hallett said Tuesday.

“We want to be done as quickly as possible, being aware of the costs and being able to work the process the way it should work with what we understand is a cooperative [Ecology],” he said.

But he was hopeful that cleanup would be completed before the end of 2017.

“It's not preordained that that's as good as it gets,” Hallett said.

“That's certainly possible, but that does not mean that's what we want, and it doesn't mean that's what we are going to accept,” he added.

“It's fair to say we could see some meaningful progress well before 2017.”

Staff from the port and Rhine Demolition LLC of Tacoma will meet Nov. 5 to discuss the tear-down, port Executive Director Jeff Robb said at the meeting Tuesday night.

Rhine, which also demolished Husky Stadium, will take down the structures under a $1.6 million contract with the port.

Demolition — including of the signature 175-foot stack — is scheduled to begin later this year.

Groven said in her open-house presentation that at least eight bulk-fuel tanks are on the site, which began as a Port of Port Angeles log yard in the 1920s.

Tidal flats were filled in in 1941 so the mill's foundation could be built, she said.

One fuel line is under the mill building.

Hydraulic oil and PCP, or pentachlorophenol, a wood-treatment chemical that can harm organs and the immune system, leaked into the groundwater beneath the mill building.

Former mill owner Rayonier, then known as ITT Rayonier, has been monitoring the underground area since 1990 under an agreed order to keep pollution from migrating into Port Angeles Harbor, Groven said.

Other contaminants on the site include benzene, a carcinogenic component of gasoline; and toluene, which is used as a solvent and dangerous when inhaled.

Other mill operators included K Ply, owned by an Alaskan Native corporation, and PenPly, which went out of business in December 2010, when the facility closed for good.

After the mill is demolished next year and the ground under it exposed, the surface will be covered with heavy-grade sheeting and sandbagged to keep water from infiltrating into the polluted groundwater, Groven said.

There are also 30 wells on the site, all of which will be protected during cleanup.

Robb said contaminated soil will be trucked to a landfill in Eastern Washington.

Environmental consultants with hazardous-materials experience will be on the site during cleanup.

“The port appears to me to be quite eager to move forward, and we are gong to help them in any way we can,” Groven said.

Open-house attendee Tom Butler of Port Angeles, a science specialist with NatureBridge in Olympic National Park, said Tuesday he appreciated the chance to talk with Ecology officials before Groven's presentation.

“I was disappointed more of the public was not there,” Butler added.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at

Last modified: October 23. 2012 6:07PM
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