Thursday, March 8, 2012

Around the Sound: Rayonier Mill cleanup schedule update

By Rebecca Lawson, regional Toxics Cleanup Program manager

Port Angeles Harbor Sediments, photo by Connie GrovensA year after our last update, we are releasing a new estimated cleanup timeline. We now believe it will take until December of 2014 to finish the last task in Rayonier’s current cleanup agreement, instead of the end of 2013.

The Port Angeles Harbor Sediments Investigation has shifted the timeline.

Our study of Port Angeles Harbor sediments has taken longer than expected and the Rayonier’s next steps hinge on the study report being final. Once that happens, Rayonier can use the data to complete their Marine Data Summary Report.

We originally expected to finalize the sediments study in July of 2011. It is currently in a 90-day public comment period that runs through May 22. We will likely finalize the report around July.

Why this is an estimated timeline

Rayonier’s cleanup agreement does not give calendar due dates. All of the tasks build on previous tasks or milestones, such as Rayonier completing its field sampling or Ecology completing the harbor sediments study. We created a graphic with estimated calendar dates to help give a more concrete timeline, and for planning purposes.

A more comprehensive sediment study helps get Port Angeles Harbor cleaned up sooner.

The sediment study became far more complex than we anticipated, and took longer as a result. The good news is the additional work actually gets us a lot closer to identifying those liable for cleanup in other parts of the harbor. Cleanup is a priority for the community and a goal of Governor Gregoire’s Puget Sound Initiative.

One example of why the study took longer is that we needed three separate studies to help explain how sediments might move along the bottom of the harbor. This is crucial information for figuring out where contaminants may have come from, and where they might move in the future.

We also extended the public comment period from 30 days to 90 to accommodate requests from the Olympic Environmental Council, Nippon Paper, Georgia Pacific, the City of Port Angeles, and the Port of Port Angeles. More time will allow for a more thorough review of the reports.

Rayonier has submitted all of its deliverables on time and we continue to work together to find ways to speed up the cleanup process. While it is frustrating to wait longer for the Rayonier cleanup, it is also good to know that we are a major step closer to cleaning up the harbor.

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