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Cleanup in Port Angeles Harbor

Several cleanup projects are underway in Port Angeles Harbor, motivated by Ecology's cleanup process and the Puget Sound Initiative.

We conducted several studies across the harbor to learn what pollutants are in the sediments and the sources of the contaminants that pose the most risk to people and the environment. These studies gave us important information that will help us succeed with the site-specific cleanup work underway throughout the harbor and in the uplands.

Port Angeles Harbor is one of seven Puget Sound bays prioritized by the Puget Sound Initiative — an effort to make significant strides in cleanup across Puget Sound by the year 2020. Cultural heritage, wildlife, and its position at the entrance to the Salish Sea all make Port Angeles Harbor a valuable focus for cleanup.

The harbor has a long history as an important cultural area for Klallam Indians. This continues today through the activities and interests of the three federally recognized Klallam/S'Klallam Tribes: Lower Elwha, Jamestown, and Port Gamble.

A wide range of plants and wildlife are part of the special habitat in Port Angeles Harbor. Endangered species like Chinook salmon, bull trout, and marbled murrelet, as well as sea lions, humpback whales, and orca can all be found in the harbor at different times of year.

Contamination in the harbor from industrial and urban activities can harm the wide variety of wildlife that live there and the habitats that support them. We use the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process to compensate the public for injuries to wildlife and wildlife habitat caused by contamination.

Harbor-wide highlights

Port Angeles Harbor sediment study reports

Ecology used special funding from the Puget Sound Initiative to learn where sediment in the harbor was contaminated and to study the nature of that contamination. The final Port Angeles Harbor sediment investigation reports are available.

Through the sediment study, we learned that several pollutants are present in Port Angeles Harbor that may pose a threat to the health of people and the environment. These include:

Port Angeles Harbor sediment dioxin source study

After the sediment study, we looked further into the sources of dioxins and furans. The Port Angeles Harbor Sediment Dioxin Study helped us understand the sources of dioxins, the elative contribution of the sources we found, and gave us insight into potential upland sources. This information allows us to draw site boundaries and clearly define responsibility for cleanup.

North Olympic Peninsula regional background study

If we removed every contaminant in Port Angeles Harbor, would the sediment, air, and water entering the harbor re-contaminate the area? An update to the rule that guides our cleanup work in sediments (Chapter 173-204) introduced the concept of background chemical concentration levels to address questions like this.

Regional background includes chemical concentrations in sediment from diffuse sources, like regional stormwater or atmospheric deposition, that are not linked to a specific source or release.

In 2016, we completed a study of the regional background levels of several contaminants found in Port Angeles Harbor. The North Olympic Peninsula regional background study extends from Port Angeles Harbor in the west to Port Townsend Bay in the east.

The results of this study, in combination with our understanding of the risk that contaminants pose to human health and the environment, help us decide cleanup levels and inform cleanup decisions in the area. In the future, we may also use these regional background levels for comparisons with Port Townsend Bay and other bays along the north Olympic Peninsula.

Cleanup projects

Cleanup planning is well underway for Port Angeles Harbor. Sediments in the harbor will be cleaned up through two projects: the Rayonier Mill cleanup and the Western Port Angeles Harbor cleanup.