Friday, February 25, 2011

Around the Sound: Updates to the Rayonier Mill sampling timeline

By Rebecca Lawson, regional Toxics Cleanup Program Manager

Ecology has an updated timeline for the Rayonier Mill cleanup.

Back in February 2010, we put together an estimated timeline for completing the work under our Agreed Order with Rayonier. One of the big uncertainties was the time it would take to sample the upland property. The Agreed Order did not specify a timeline for Rayonier to complete upland data collection because it was part of the work plan that Rayonier was to develop as a deliverable of the Agreed Order.

Phased sampling takes longer but provides better results

In order to provide the public with a more concrete schedule, we estimated that it would take six months to finish upland sampling. At the time, we thought that Rayonier would do the work all in one stage. As we negotiated the details of Rayonier’s work plan last summer, both parties decided a phased sampling approach would be better. It wasn’t clear at the time if it would take a bit longer. The advantage it offered was that each phase would build on the results of the previous phase, resulting in a more thorough data report.

Rayonier is in its final phase of upland sampling. Given our experience with the first three phases, we estimate it will take about three more months for Rayonier to finish sampling, get lab results, and process the information. Rayonier will then submit a technical memo to Ecology around mid-June 2011. We will make this memo available for public review.

What does this mean for the overall schedule?

Rayonier will complete the upland data summary report in early 2012 instead of late 2011, as we originally estimated. This pushes evaluation of cleanup options to later in 2012. Ecology will likely hold a public comment period on the upland and marine data summary reports and cleanup alternatives in mid-2013. As we move forward, we will look for opportunities to shave time off the schedule—both Ecology and Rayonier want to get this site cleaned up soon.

We are still on track to end this investigation and be ready to negotiate the terms of cleanup for the study area with Rayonier by the end of 2013.

Why didn’t we make an announcement earlier?

Environmental work can be unpredictable, particularly sampling. Unanticipated results are always a possibility and could possibly change the length of work. With this in mind, we weren’t certain how long phased sampling would actually take when we finalized the work plan in August 2010.

In our commitment to keep the public informed of our progress, we’ve posted blogs on Ecology’s EcoConnect site for each round of sampling, issued news releases for key deliverables and come to Port Angeles to meet with citizens and local leaders.

We strive to meet the public’s clearly stated expectation that the Rayonier site be cleaned up thoroughly and quickly. We will continue to keep you updated through the blog.

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