PenPly stack dioxin level delays finish of mill demolition
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Keith Thorpe/Peniinsula Daily News
A plastic tarp covers the wreckage of the former Peninsula Plywood stack in Port Angeles on Friday.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — Yes, it's finally down. But it's not out.

A 175-foot Peninsula Plywood mill chimney stack that fought being felled April 8 — before saws and torches did the trick — is still in a fractured pile while its remains are examined for levels of dioxin, a toxic compound, Port of Port Angeles Director of Engineering Chris Hartman said Friday.

That means this Friday's deadline date for completing demolition of the 439 Marine Drive industrial site will be delayed by a few days, he said.

The dioxin levels are “considerably greater than what we thought,” Hartman said.

The initial test results “came back so high, we started asking questions,” he added.

The dioxin is in ash that coated the inside of the 1,000-ton structure, port environmental specialist Jesse Waknitz said.

Hartman said the dioxin does not pose a danger to anyone who walks on the site or lives or works near the area, located on the edge of the downtown business district where Front Street meets Marine Drive.

Tests on the dioxin should be completed by May 8 and the rubble hauled off the site by May 31, Hartman added.

The port, which owns the site, has a $1.6 million contract with Rhine Demolition LLC of Tacoma to level the structures on it.

Until the rubble is hauled off, Rhine will have to keep equipment on the site that otherwise would have been removed by Friday, Hartman said.

Rhine officials have said they will not seek monetary compensation for “standby time” for equipment that is at the site that the company cannot use until the site is cleared, Hartman said.

The question is where the debris from the stack, the last structure on the property to be destroyed, will be transported.

The plan was to recycle it.

But if dioxin levels are too high, it will be taken to a landfill, in which case “there will be additional charges,” Hartman said.

Those expenses would be covered by the port, he said, adding that he did not have an estimate of the cost.

“It would only be a couple of days for the material to be hauled off, and then they'll be done,” Hartman said.

The inside of the stack was scraped before being tested, revealing a lesser concentration of dioxin than what was discovered once the interior could be more closely examined, he said.

Now, the remains are being examined after the concrete is crushed, a more accurate way to determine dioxin levels.

“We knew this was going to be a big question mark even before we brought the tower down,” Hartman said.

“We were not able to get in there to do all the sampling we would like to do until it was on the ground.”

Waknitz said Floyd Snider Inc. is putting together a work plan to assess the overall pollution levels on the 19-acre property.

The Seattle consulting firm will extract soil and water samples, conduct a remedial investigation to determine pollution levels and write a feasibility study on options for making the property suitable for a new tenant.

It was the home of a plywood mill under various owners since 1941 but shut down in 2011.

The port wants to use the property for marine trades.

The state Department of Ecology has estimated cleanup will not be complete until the end of 2017.

The stack was scheduled to come down at 3:30 p.m. April 8 with the help of explosive charges stuffed into the base of the structure.

Charges went off, but the stack remained upright, much to the disappointment of thousands of anxious onlookers standing near the site and perched on bluffs overlooking the property.

Workers cut into reinforced steel running up and down the structure, wedged a 70-ton jack into a hole created by the blast and used it to lift the structure until it fell at 6:13 p.m., 2 hours and 43 minutes later than planned.

Most of the onlookers had departed by then.

But the stack, now a crumbled, dioxin-laden mess, is sticking around longer than anyone expected.

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

Last modified: April 28. 2013 6:21PM
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