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EPA Defers Rayonier Mill Site Cleanup to Washington

Release Date: 2/2/2000
Contact Information: Bill Dunbar
(206) 553-1138

February 2, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - 00-05

The Washington State Department of Ecology will take the lead in cleaning-up the site of the former Rayonier Pulp Mill in Port Angeles, Washington, according to a decision made today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle. With Ecology assuming responsibility
for the cleanup, the property has avoided being proposed for federal “Superfund” listing by EPA at this time.

Today’s announcement follows several months of investigation by EPA regarding the nature and extent of contamination on and around the site. In announcing the decision, Chuck Clarke, EPA regional administrator, outlined the thinking behind the Agency’s action and continued involvement in the project.

“After carefully reviewing the situation, we feel both the environment and the local community will be best served and protected by a cleanup conducted under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act,” Clarke said. “However, this doesn’t mean we’re walking away. EPA will maintain an oversight role in the project and reserve the right to resume a leadership role and assume responsibility if the cleanup fails to move forward as planned.”

The Department of Ecology is confident that its locally focused, state-led cleanup effort will do the job. "We look forward to working with Rayonier and the Port Angeles community to clean up this site quickly and thoroughly so it is no longer a threat to the public and the environment," said Tom Fitzsimmons, Department of Ecology director.

Supporters of EPA deferral decision are numerous. Washington Governor Gary Locke supports an Ecology-led cleanup and requested that Ecology take the lead on the project in a March 1999 letter to EPA. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which has substantial cultural and resource interest in the site, supports the deferral.

The 80-acre site on the Port Angeles Harbor has been used for various industrial purposes since 1917. Since 1937 Rayonier has operated a mill at the site, most recently the site was used for an ammonia-based acid sulfite process to produce dissolving-grade pulp. Rayonier ceased production at the mill in March 1997. Prior to industrial development a Klallam Indian Tribe ancient village and burial ground were located at the site.

Extensive EPA soil sampling has indicated that there is a clear potential threat to public health and the environment from the site and that further investigation and cleanup is needed. The assessment shows that samples of soil, surface water, groundwater on the Mill Site contain elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), pesticides/polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, lead and dioxin/furans. Marine sediment samples in Port Angeles Harbor also found several contaminants including elevated levels of SVOCs, PCBs and dioxins.

The U.S. Department of the Interior, a natural resource trustee for the site, is concerned about the site’s potential impact on migratory birds, fish and threatened or endangered species such as the bald eagle, peregrine falcon and gray whale. The Ecology-led cleanup will consider these concerns and the trustees may also pursue a separate settlement for natural resource damages for the site.