OEC blasts EPA for underhandedness
OEC review of Governor's letter to EPA supporting DOE
Analysis of Preliminary Agreement between the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe & DOE.
Link to epidemiological research info on Port Angeles/Rayonier (Peninsula Pointers)
Update: On 6 January 1999, Region 10 USEPA nominated the Rayonier, Inc. Port Angeles (now closed) pulp mill site for the EPA Superfund National Priority List. Region 10 will oversee the cleanup.
In May 1997, fourteen organizations and 29 individuals petitioned Region 10 for a Superfund Assessment of this mill and three industrial land dumps based in residential areas.
"All citizens should be pleased that the community will be afforded their best opportunity to restore the areas natural resources and be insured a healthier environment for humans and wildlife," said Petitioner Kathy Duff of Sequim.
WHERE IS PORT ANGELES? An interesting fact about Port Angeles is that this northwestern U.S. town on the Olympic Peninsula was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 the Nation's second National City. By the early 1890 that status no longer held. The Peninsula is itself bounded by the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Port Angeles is one of the towns that fringe the base of the Olympic National Park. It hosts magnificent views of Vancouver Island, B.C. and numerous islands to the north in the Strait of Georgia. Rayonier, a chlorine dependent sulfite pulp mill since 1929, sits on fill in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and has the same magnificent views. Unfortunately, it used the Strait and nearby creeks entering the Strait as a toilet, dumping into it many of its effluents such as ash with dioxin, sludges (wood and other mill wastes) with dioxin and heavy metals, and oils with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Over the years studies demonstrated the breadth and width of this toxic plume on marine life.
ONE DUMP. A nearly completed quarry of about 65 acres in a residential area was purchased by Rayonier in 1978. This quarry abutted backyards of approximately 24 home sites. While Rayonier built a secondary treatment plant on the Strait and developed other manners of sludge disposal, they used the quarry to dump sludge, then the ash of burned materials including sludge and oils. The first "cell" was 5.5 acres and was unlined. In 1989 they lined a 5.5 acre "cell" next to the first cell. The lined cell extended eastward to a bluff over a major water body and over a residential area of approximately 155 home sites. Residents were never asked if they wanted such a neighbor and few knew what was being dumped, until 1995. But first...
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT. Neighbors did not know what was going into the landfill, but they did know about the proposed expansion. In 1993 residents tried to halt it, as did County staff. But County Commissioners had a long, close working relationship with Rayonier, who employed 360 people and provided a nice tax base. When the public appealed the expansion, the Commissioners overruled the public and their own staff, but did require Rayonier submit an EIS, not so much for environmental as for aesthetic purposes. More than 2 years would elapse before the EIS was submitted.
In the meantime, early in 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). This Inventory lists many of the country's major air and water polluters and primary chemicals released. Rayonier made that list a number of times by 1995. Indeed, they were crowned WA State's worst air and land polluter. Certain individuals decided they had had enough of air emissions that badly affected their breathing. It was already known that the level of childhood asthma and chronic cough was the worst in the U.S. So while brain storming on what to do, these citizens were advised to look into Rayonier's land dumps. *NOTE: Reporting is voluntary and corporations only need to report particular wastes at or above particular quantities.
The County files revealed Rayonier had more than one dump, other pulp and paper mills were likewise dumping in residential areas, that the dumps were literally abutting residents' back yards, that residents complained of feeling ill and of smelling odors, that annual permit conditions were consistently violated, and that the State Department of Ecology (DOE) and the Clallam County Environmental Health Department continually gave Rayonier "variances," "conditional use permits (CUP)," and "reliefs" to dump known hazardous and toxic materials in these residentially-based sites. Reading the files also informed citizens of a pending DEIS to expand one landfill.
The DEIS was released for public review in October 1995. Rayonier proposed an unheard of 75 year permit to dump wastes 55 feet above ground over 65 acres! Entire neighborhoods met and reviewed the document. 350 public questions and comments were submitted, forcing Rayonier to pay thousands of dollars more to their contractor to review and answer citizen inputs and make revisions. Few revisions to the EIS were made and citizens noted many of their questions were unanswered or ill- answered. True to form, the County staff gave the proposal a "determination of non-significance." (DNS) Citizens paid for an appeal before their County Commissioners, underscoring not only the hazardousness of the materials but the fragility of the soils in the area. In fact, the soils around the landfill had been labeled "creeping soils" by Rayonier's own contractors almost a decade previous and major land slides in the area were common place. Further effluent weight and moisture could worsen the already unstable condition and and cause landfill waste sloughing onto the homesite and into the creek .
In the midst of the appeal, held in Summer 1996, citizens kept asking why this project was even being proposed? It was fairly certain that Rayonier would close its pulp mill within three years because they refused to invest needed funds to meet the pending Clean Air permit regulations. Rayonier denied they were closing. (Annual stockholder reports indicated they were, while at the same time equipment and personnel were being moved to their Georgia facility.)
Six weeks following the Commissioner decision to allow Rayonier to submit engineering plans for the landfill expansion, Rayonier announced they were shutting the mill the following February, and further, they would use the dump for mill demolition debris.
TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'. Once Rayonier announced they were closing the plant the political scene became interesting. By January of 1997 the County Commissioners in office had no history with Rayonier. In unison the Commissioners told Rayonier they would not be permitted to dump mill demolition at the dump. Even prior to that, concerned citizens learned they had the right to petition the U.S. EPA for a Superfund assessment of sites believed to contain hazardous wastes. Residents working on the landfill knew Rayonier pulp processes produced a lot of dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals, and much more dangerous waste, and so they decided to ask the EPA to assess the mill site, two Rayonier landfills, and a third landfill where Rayonier and pulp and paper manufacturers Crown Zellerbach and Daishowa dumped. EPA accepted their petition in June 1997. By February 1998 EPA assessments were completed.
In addition, EPA did an extensive assessment of the Port Angeles Harbor situated in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Two other mills, Daishowa and KPly, a boat repair corporation, Admiral Marine, a marina, and the Port Angeles City outfall have all contributed to conditions within the Harbor and the Strait. In fact, a Seattle based organization, People for Puget Sound, in December 1996 produced TOXIC SOUP. They determined the Strait was WA State's second dirtiest water body, Rayonier effluents ranked as a major contributor.
For EPA documents or information call Robert Drake at
For DOE documents or information call Garin Schrieve at 360-407-6000.
For related info: Washington Toxics Coalition--a non-profit, member-based organization dedicated to protecting public health and the environment by identifying and promoting alternatives to toxic chemicals.
Darlene Schanfald email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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