March demolition date set for Port Angeles smokestack

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — A 175-foot smokestack on the western edge of downtown has less than two months remaining.

The structure, a symbol of the North Olympic Peninsula's timber heritage dating to World War II, is set for demolition March 25 at the former Peninsula Plywood mill at 439 Marine Drive, Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Jeff Robb said Monday.

Robb touched on the project to an audience of about 90 at a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon during a presentation that focused on the port's ongoing involvement in abating industrial pollution in Port Angeles.

“I'd like to work you through a journey of environmental cleanup today,” he said.

Part of that trek dealt with the cleanup of the former PenPly site.

The waterfront industrial location shut down for good in November after being in operation — on and off in its later years — for more than seven decades.

On March 25, there will be a formal ceremony before the stack is brought to the ground “to understand the significance and history of the mill and respect the heritage of the forest sector that supported it,” Robb said.

A task force of forest-related workers will develop a kiosk or other permanent structure to memorialize the mill's history, he added.

The stack, known by its height and the signature logo “K Ply” on the structure for a company that once owned it, is encased in plastic while workers scrape off toxic paint under a Tacoma company's $1.6 million demolition contract to level 11 buildings on the 19-acre parcel.

The port has been awarded a $4 million grant under the Model Toxics Control Act through the state Department of Ecology that will pay 75 cents for every $1 of cleanup.

Cleanup is expected to cost about $3.1 million and last through the end of 2017.

An public open house on the site's future will be announced later this month, Robb said.

Eighty percent of hazardous material has been removed, and 90 percent of demolition has occurred, he said.

But a barrier wall may have to be built to ensure that an underground plume of benzene — a petrochemical that is a constituent of crude oil — that has remained fairly dormant for 20 years does not migrate into Port Angeles Harbor, Robb said.

“Twenty-five years ago, we had tank farms all over the waterfront because industry demanded that sort of fuel,” Robb said.

The port is getting credit for the value of recycled material at the site, he added.

The agency intends to ready the site for water-dependent uses that could include marine trades, support services for the port's marine terminal and manufacturing for renewable energy.

In what Robb called “purely a concept,” three large buildings the size of Westport Shipyard's and Platypus Marine's buildings, just to the west of the PenPly site, would be built on the property.

“That's the size of the Travelift we operate on the waterfront,” Robb said.

“A developer or whoever that might be will determine what the site might look like,” Robb said.

Westport's building is 75 feet tall, the maximum height limit for buildings in Port Angeles.

The PenPly cleanup grant is funded by a 0.7 percent tax on hazardous substances, including gasoline.

Pesticides and household chemicals also fall under the tax.

The port also is involved in planning efforts to clean up industrial pollution in the harbor, which has 2,500 acres of surface area.

Ecology, which has begun assessing the extent of harbor pollution, released a four-year study last year that found that sediment in the western part of the harbor is contaminated with industrial pollutants including arsenic and mercury.

The reach of the Model Toxics Control Act “is so extensive that nearly any person with any connection to a contaminated property is potentially liable for the entire cost of the cleanup,” Robb said in his PowerPoint presentation.

“Understanding and controlling that risk is essential.”

Potentially liable parties for the cleanup are the port, Georgia Pacific, Nippon Industries USA, forestry company Merrill & Ring and the state Department of Natural Resources.

The port, the city, Nippon and Georgia Pacific are developing an agreed order with Ecology to investigate the extent of contamination and evaluate cleanup options.

“We are sharing the costs and enter into an agreed order later this year,” Robb said.

Rayonier Inc. is responsible for cleanup of its former waterfront mill site 2 miles east of downtown that contains pockets of contamination — PCBs, dioxins and other toxic chemicals — that were left at the site when the company closed the mill in 1997 after 68 years of operation.

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

Last modified: February 04. 2013 6:30PM
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