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Port of Our Lady of the Angels*


Superfund ‘boundary’,
Discovery Trail, August 2014

In January 1999,  the Rayonier mill site in Port Angeles was nominated for the EPA Superfund National Priority List. Site clean up involves a heady assortment of mutagens and carcinogens- arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, manganese, lead, and phthalate contamination.  While  initially designated a  Superfund Site, in 2000 the EPA deferred the cleanup to WA State Ecology’s Model Toxics Control Act instead, under the auspices of the Solid Waste Program. Cleanup stalled for seven years but after transfer to the Washington Department of Ecology’s Toxic Cleanup Program in 2007 things started happening.

The clean-up area has since expanded to the entire Port Angeles Harbor, which is an area of more than five square miles. Additional culprits have been notified. Rayonier will be responsible for cleanup of its own mill site, a segment of Strait sediments at the east end of the Harbor, and dioxins in soils off-property in and outside the city of Port Angeles.  The responsibility for cleanup of the rest of Port Angeles Harbor has been divided into KPly (aka PenPly, demolished in 2013),  and the still-active Nippon pulp/paper mill along Ediz Hook, and several others including the marina and a boat/ship repair area.

It is an interesting walk, since most of the Discovery Trail’s Port Angles Harbor frontage is actually considered toxic, and the irony is only mildly betrayed by the cleanup’s orderly yet oddly beautiful industrial landscape of chainlink fences,  groundwater sampling wells,  stockpile management berms, and suspiciously suburban grasses. Difficult to get pictures of it- the chainlinks are just high enough and hackneyed enough to discourage efforts. Not that the wistful backwards-glance photo above isn’t hackneyed, but I couldn’t resist.

*Francisco de Eliza, c. 1791