Environment | Opinion

Opinion: Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe cleaning up brownfields

"For the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe the importance of the Brownfields work lies not in redevelopment of lands, but in human health. Not only have many of our tribal families called this area home for generations, but they rely on natural resources, such as fish and shellfish from Port Gamble Bay, for sustenance.

We recently completed Phase 1 of the project, which included an assessment around Point Julia for something called Recognized Environmental Conditions (RECs). Sometimes detecting potential contamination is as simple as a thorough sight and smell inspection. That’s how RECs are identified and it’s the first step required by the EPA towards developing a clean-up plan for Brownfields sites.

In our assessment we found creosote pilings—many of which were castoffs from industrial work done at Port Gamble—scattered throughout the site. An old pier that was once a community favorite during the summer months is coated in creosote and may have been treated in the past with arsenic products. Creosote and arsenic are carcinogenic to humans and may have a hand in causing certain types of cancers.

In all there are 20 sites on and around the reservation that are a part of our Brownfields assessments, including the old Pope & Talbot mill site, which as a part of its day-to-day operations released sources of contamination that impacted the surrounding waters and soil. We hope to continue working with the Brownfields program and have these sites cleaned up within the next few years.

Our work with Brownfields sites is just one component of our tribe’s larger initiative to secure our home and heritage for future generations. This includes work to protect and restore Port Gamble Bay as well as the Traditional Knowledge Project. The latter is in conjunction with Washington State University and serves to capture stories and oral history from our elders."

Get the Story:
Paul McCollum: Brownfields program could help tribe redevelop (Kingston Community News 5/3)

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