Firm hired to look into Port Angeles Harbor sediment pollution

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A $1.8 million contract has been awarded to a Seattle consulting firm to complete an investigation of sediment pollution in western Port Angeles Harbor, near Tumwater Creek.

Under the contract awarded by the Port of Port Angeles, Floyd Snider Inc. also will conduct a feasibility study on cleaning up the western harbor as part of an agreement under which five public and private entities that are responsible for the pollution will share the the cost of the $1.8 million study, with oversight from the state Department of Ecology.

An Ecology open house on three draft documents — the remedial investigation and feasibility study work plan, a public participation plan and the agreed order between the five entities — will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Linkletter Hall at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St.

Port commissioners unanimously approved the professional services agreement and a participation agreement for the project Monday at their regular meeting.

“This certainly seems to be the right path to take for the public we represent,” commission President Jim Hallett said.

“It just recognizes that based on what the [Department of Ecology] said, there are multiple entities that have contributed to the problem,” he added.

“The goal is to not let anyone get stuck with a disproportionate share or get away with not paying their fair share.”

The remedial investigation and feasibility study will focus on Port Angeles Harbor west of Tumwater Creek and will include some sampling farther east, toward the site of the former Rayonier Inc. pulp mill, Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Jeff Robb said.

He said sediment sampling will begin in June.

The investigation and feasibility study will be completed by July 2014.

The five parties footing the bill are the port, the city of Port Angeles, Georgia Pacific, Nippon Paper Industries USA and Merrill & Ring, a timber and land management company.

The cost will be divided into four shares of $450,000 each, with Nippon and Merrill & Ring together paying a combined $450,000.

“It has to do with the amount of land that was sold and transferred to various parties over the years,” Nippon mill Manager Harold Norlund said Tuesday.

The five parties entered into an agreement in 2008 as entities that operated in western Port Angeles Harbor and became known as the Western Port Angeles Harbor Group.

Ecology conducted a pollution study between 2008 and 2012 that found “multiple types of pollutants in the Port Angeles Harbor sediments,” according to a staff report to port commissioners.

“What we are doing is filling in the data gaps that came out of that study,” Robb said Tuesday.

The port has budgeted $525,000 in 2013 and $525,000 in 2014 for the study and cleanup.

Most of that expenditure is eligible for reimbursement from Ecology, which included $750,000 for the port in the agency’s 2013-1015 budget from the agency’s Remedial Action Grant Program.

The parties agreed that Merrill & Ring and Nippon would pay a combined single share of $450,000 for the investigation and study, Norlund said.

The two companies have been tied together in the past.

For example, the port bought Marine Drive property from Nippon, Norlund said.

In addition, Nippon’s administrative building once housed Merrill & Ring’s offices, he added.

Each party also will have its own environmental consultant, environmental attorneys and general counsels.

Actual cleanup costs could be borne by additional entities, such as Rayonier, Fibreboard Corp. and the state Department of Natural Resources, Robb said, adding those costs have not been determined.

The port owns or formerly owned properties where Fibreboard Corp. and Merrill & Ring “released hazardous substances that have become sources of contamination of western Port Angeles Harbor,” according to the draft agreed order.

Who pays what will be decided after the remedial investigation and feasibility study are completed — and the allocations are not likely to be evenly divided.

“That’s when the attorneys and principals engage and negotiate who is responsible for what cleanup activity,” Robb said.

The port is the “cashier” for the five parties, Robb said.

He said port officials suggested the port fulfill that function and suggested Floyd Snider Inc. should be the coordinating consultant for the remedial investigation and feasibility study.

“All we are doing is depositing money into a dedicated account and paying the consultant on a monthly basis with input from the other [potentially liable parties],” Robb said Tuesday.

Harbor cleanup may occur beginning in 2015 or 2016, Robb said.

A cost estimate for cleanup has not been determined, he added.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 26. 2013 6:02PM
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