Western Port Angeles Harbor
Hazardous Waste Site | Port Angeles, WA | Early 1900s to present
Port Angeles Harbor was once dominated by large sawmills, plywood manufacturing, pulp and paper production facilities, as well as marine shipping/transportation, boat building and refurbishing, petroleum bulk fuel facilities, marinas, and commercial fishing industries. Since the early 1900s, pulp and paper mills and other industrial facilities discharged effluents into Port Angeles Harbor. These discharges have resulted in harbor sediments contaminated by heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, and petrochemicals. While the Washington State Department of Ecology is the lead agency for the cleanup of Port Angeles Harbor, the Port Angeles Harbor Natural Resource Trustees have assessed the injuries to natural resources in the Western Harbor. Potentially responsible parties for the Western Harbor include: Nippon Paper Industries USA Co., Ltd; Merrill & Ring Inc.; Georgia-Pacific LLC; The Port of Port Angeles; The City of Port Angeles; and Owens Corning.
What Were the Impacts?
The Trustees evaluated contamination of intertidal and subtidal sediments over the entirety of Port Angeles Harbor. Eleven sediment studies between 2002 and 2013 revealed hazardous substances at concentrations above state and federal standards, indicating potential injuries to benthic organisms, fish, shellfish, and birds. The distribution of hazardous substances corresponds with the locations of historical industrial activities and wastewater discharge sites identified within Port Angeles Harbor.
Port Angeles Harbor provides critical habitat for Puget Sound Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, bull trout, and Hood Canal summer chum salmon, listed under the Endangered Species Act, as well as a diversity of shellfish, fish, birds, and mammals that use shoreline habitats. Sampled fish and shellfish specimens from the harbor have been found to have elevated concentrations of metals, dioxins, PCBs, and petrochemicals in their tissue. The Washington State Department of Health has restricted shellfish harvest and posted an advisory against consumption of crab from the Harbor.
What’s Happening Now?
March 2021 Proposed Consent Decrees and Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan
On March 26, 2021, the U.S Department of Justice announced two Consent Decrees proposing a total $9.3 million settlement to restore for injuries to natural resources caused by hazardous waste pollution at the Western Port Angeles Harbor site.
The Consent Decrees provide a total settlement value of $9.3 million. One Consent Decree would resolve the liability of the Port of Port Angeles, Nippon Paper Industries USA Co., Ltd., Merrill & Ring Inc., Georgia-Pacific LLC, and Owens Corning for $8.5 million. The other Consent Decree would resolve the liability of The City of Port Angeles for $800,000.
NOAA and other members of the Port Angeles Harbor Trustee Council also released a draft damage assessment and restoration plan. The plan included an assessment of the injuries to the environment from the pollution. It also proposes an ecosystem-based habitat restoration program that would restore the pollution-impacted resources with $8.5 million of funds from the settlement.
May 2021 Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan
The trustees released a final damage assessment and restoration plan which proposed the establishment of a regional restoration program to select and implement future restoration projects. The program will provide funding for ecosystem-based restoration actions to be implemented by local restoration partners. The trustees will cultivate, solicit, and evaluate opportunities for restoration, and provide funding for selected projects.
The trustees will update this case page, and the Washington Department of Ecology’s Western Port Angeles Harbor NRDA page, with more information about progress as the program and projects start to move forward.
June 2021 Approval of Consent Decrees and Initial Compensation
Following completion of the final plan, two consent decrees were lodged in federal district court. The consent decrees were entered by the district court judge on June 9, 2020, completing the NRDA settlement process for the Western Port Angeles Harbor.