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Study shows more contaminants in Port Angeles waters

Sequim Gazette staff

The Department of Ecology will hold an open house Tuesday, March 13, to air the results of a recent study of the sediments in Port Angeles Harbor.

 

Ecology began the study in 2008 as part of the Puget Sound Initiative, an effort by the state to restore the sound’s health by 2020. Researchers hoped to determine the distribution of chemical contamination and wood debris in the harbor and to identify the likely sources of the contaminants.

 

Ecology says the study revealed the presence of a number of “major chemical contaminants,” including dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), “both of which can persist in the environment for decades.”

“Dioxins and PCBs are endocrine disruptors, may cause reproductive and development effects, and are potential carcinogens,” Ecology said.

 

Other contaminants include toxic metals as well as ammonia and sulfides from decomposing wood debris, all which are harmful to plants and animals.

 

The largest contamination “hot spots” are in the inner harbor and near the former Rayonier pulp mill, in the eastern part of the harbor.

 

The results of the study will help Ecology determine who is responsible for the contamination. Some of the data will be used for the Rayonier Mill cleanup, which is already in progress.

 

Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s regional manager for the Toxics Cleanup Program, said, “Although this study took longer than we anticipated, it gives us enough evidence to begin talks with those potentially liable for cleanup in the harbor. We were tasked with helping to clean up Puget Sound by 2020 and these reports are a major step towards that goal.”

 

Ecology staff will respond to the comments in a written summary after the comment period ends on March 23. The next steps, they say, include further data analysis and identifying and working with the potentially liable parties on legal agreements for their part of the cleanup.

 

The two reports and a fact sheet are available at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites_brochure/portAngelesHarborSed/paSed_hp.htm.

 

Send technical questions and comments to project manager Connie Groven at Connie.Groven@ecy.wa.gov, 360-407-6254.

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