Thursday, July 16, 2015

Around the Sound: A Throwback Thursday blessing for a major cleanup

By Seth Preston, communications manager, Toxics Cleanup Program

Next Thursday, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe will hold a special event for something that will (literally and figuratively) be a blessing for Port Gamble Bay, the local community and Puget Sound.

From 10 a.m. to noon July 23, tribal officials and other local representatives will hold a ceremony to bless the coming in-water cleanup of  the bay. Work is scheduled to start in August.

Targeting contamination

It's been a long time coming -- the old Pope & Talbot mill operated in Port Gamble for 142 years before shutting down in 1995. Pope Resources, which is funding the cleanup, owns the old mill site, timberland and other holdings formerly owned by Pope & Talbot.

The former Pope & Talbot mill decades ago ...
Historical operations on this property released pollutants from wood waste, creosote pilings and other sources, including cadmium, mercury, petroleum hydrocarbons, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cPAHs), and dioxins/furans. Some of these contaminants have been found in soil surrounding the mill and in sediments and shellfish tissue in Port Gamble Bay. 

In addition to the chemicals released, wood waste has affected the marine sediments. When wood waste breaks down, it releases sulfide and ammonia, which are harmful to bottom-dwelling animals. Wood waste can also smother aquatic habitat and animals such as clams.

More work

... and in more recent times.

In addition to the in-water cleanup, we've worked with the tribe and other partners to restore and preserve Port Gamble Bay. The bulk of the work was done in 2014, but the benefits and results are ongoing and long-lasting.

Blessing details

The July 23 ceremony at the former mill site in Port Gamble will include prayers, song and remarks from tribal leaders and the president of Pope Resources. 

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