I’m back in the office, finally unpacking posterboards and meeting supplies, and taking the time to reflect on what we heard at our February 10th public open house. The Port Angeles Senior Center’s Multipurpose Room was packed with 75 members of the community and state and local officials.
While greeting and talking with those who showed up for the first part of the evening, Ecology staff heard a wide variety of opinions on Ecology’s new agreement with Rayonier. Many are disappointed that cleanup plans will take three years to finish. Others are just relieved something is finally happening on the site. Most have their own opinion about what should happen with the mill property in the future.
Rebecca Lawson, Toxic Cleanup Program’s Southwest regional manager, started out the presentation by acknowledging the deep frustration over the slow pace of cleanup, and speaking to concerns about the three-year schedule. After giving some background on the Rayonier site and related investigations of Port Angeles Harbor and upland soils, she turned the microphone over to project manager Marian Abbett.
Marian filled in details about how the site was contaminated and what has happened since the mill shut down in 1997. The Toxics Cleanup team was surprised to find, when they took over site management, that a lot of cleanup had already been done using Interim Actions, which are partial cleanup actions. Marian then went on to explain the cleanup agreement, and that we and Rayonier are committed to producing a cleanup plan by the end of three years.
We ended the evening with the question and answer session. Our audience represented the spectrum of interests, but one concern was universal—that cleanup should happen as soon as possible.
As a public involvement coordinator, I live for the Q&A session. It provides us with unfiltered feedback on our work and helps us plan our projects to best address community concerns. To honor the time everyone took to be at the open house, I will be spending the next few weeks going more in depth on some of the audience questions. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know when each new blog is posted.
Questions from the open house — which ones do you want to hear more about?
- Why does cleanup take so long? Is there a single cleanup action Rayonier could take that would clean up the whole site at once?
- Why does it take three years just to plan for cleanup?
- What is the risk of leaving contaminants in the environment for three more years?
- What would it take to do the Agreed Order work in one and a half years?
- What makes the schedule enforceable for Rayonier? What happens to the deadlines in the Agreed Order if Harbor-Works Public Development Authority buys the property and joins the cleanup?
- What are Ecology’s consequences for missing deadlines? What is Ecology’s motivation to get cleanup done?
- Could Ecology take over the cleanup from Rayonier?
- Is there a process for getting the Environmental Protection Agency to take over cleanup?
- Does Rayonier actually have the resources to complete the work they have agreed to do?
- Of the 25,000 tons of soil removed, where did all the material go? Can you guarantee that future soil disposal sites will be fully protective?
- Why can’t Ecology get cleanup done as fast as EPA did in Slidell, Louisiana?
- For comparison, are there similar sites in Washington with the same types of contamination?
- What cleanup levels will be used? Will the future land use be industrial?
- Would Ecology be willing to work with the city on their Combined Sewer Overflow project timeline? Current plans call for using a tank on the Rayonier property.