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Dioxins at Doorstep of Washington State Capital
OLYMPIA, Washington, May 12, 2008 (ENS) - The extent of dioxin contamination in Budd Inlet at the front door of Washington's capital city is beginning to emerge from a study of the inlet's sediments conducted by the state that is being made public Monday.

The Washington state capital city of Olympia is situated at the southern end of Budd Inlet, a southern arm of Puget Sound. The inlet is contaminated with dioxins that were first discovered in 2006.

Although dioxins were found in areas throughout the inlet, the highest levels of dioxins were found in sediments near stormwater discharge pipes and the Port's shipping berths.

The specific source of dioxins in Budd Inlet is unknown. Most likely, dioxin contamination resulted from stormwater runoff or historical industrial use of shore areas, according to the state Department of Ecology, which conducted the study.

Runoff into Budd Inlet at Moxlie Creek (Photo courtesy City of Olympia)
Dioxins are chemicals that pose potential health risks to humans, including the possibility of cancer. Typically byproducts of industrial practices, dioxins are usually are found around areas of heavy industrial use.

Starting today, people can review the report, which summarizes the findings from last summer's initial sampling and from recently analyzed samples. It will be posted to the Department of Ecology's website here.

Elevated levels of dioxins were found in the inlet's sediments in 2006 when the Port of Olympia was preparing to dredge its berthing area. As a result, the state agency launched an investigation to learn as much as possible about the contamination, such as how far and deep it extends and whether there are any identifiable sources responsible for the dioxins.

The highest levels of dioxins were found at the Port of Olympia's shipping berths (230 parts per trillion (ppt) and 4,212.5 ppt), Moxlie Creek (60.3 ppt) and Hardel Mutual Plywood (59.8 ppt).

Excluding the port's shipping berth area, dioxin readings ranged from 2.9 to 60.3 ppt.

The lowest levels of dioxins were found in the upper Budd Inlet area, where the average reading was 14.7 ppt.

The report indicates that the dioxins are likely from a chemical used to preserve wood, called pentachlorophenol or PCP. It is not clear how many industrial sites around the inlet may have used this chemical.

Based on the report's findings, the Department of Ecology plans to do more sampling around the Moxlie Creek outfall.

Sampling crews will also check near Priest Point Park and in the northern reaches of Budd Inlet to find where dioxin levels drop to what could be considered a background or more naturally occurring level unaffected by industrial pollution.

A public meeting on the dioxins in Budd Inlet starts at 6:30 on June 5 in Room A of the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia Street. Ecology staff will give a presentation at 7 p.m. and answer the public's questions about study findings and next steps.

Public comments about the study will be taken from May 12 through June 17. Send comments to: Rebecca Lawson, Ecology, SWRO Toxics Cleanup Program, PO Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775, email: [email protected]

Budd Inlet is a high-priority cleanup area under the Puget Sound Initiative, a comprehensive effort by local, tribal, state and federal governments, business, agricultural and environmental interests, scientists, and the public to restore and protect the Sound.

The Department of Ecology plans to conduct similar bay-wide sediment studies in other early action areas, including Port Gardner at Everett, Oakland Bay in Mason County and Port Angeles Harbor.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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