Creosote concerns close Pritchard Park beach

Much of the new park’s shoreline closed for start of spring.

Kayakers, beachcombers and dog walkers take heed: the beach at Pritchard Park will be closed until June, as recently discovered contamination is investigated.

The U.S. Environmental Pro­tection Agency has cordoned off most of the park’s beach to conduct tests after creosote-related industrial toxins were reported late last summer by an island resident.

“Only a tiny section of the beach isn’t roped off, but we really don’t want people down there, especially people with dogs because (dogs) sometimes like to go other places,” said EPA community involvement coordinator Jeanne O’Dell.

Park users are advised to count out a trip to Pritchard Park’s beach for about five weeks. The sample points have been marked with wooden stakes, while much of the beach is roped off.

Testing began April 17, but a broad public notice was not issued until Monday.

The mothball-like smell of creosote served as the initial indicator that toxins had breached the beach’s protective cap, according to EPA officials.

Compounds contained in creosote are harmful to wildlife and humans.

While the 50-acre site’s western half was cleaned and capped in the late 1990s, the eastern half, encompassing Bill Point, continues to undergo cleaning behind chain-link fences and warning signs.

About 1 million gallons of creosote and other chemicals remain in the area’s soil and groundwater after nearly a century of continual contamination by a wood treatment facility owned by Wyckoff/Pacific Sound Resources. The now-defunct company ended operations in 1988 and handed the site to the EPA for an extensive cleanup under the federal Superfund program.

While the EPA has contained much of the creosote, some areas off Bill Point have long been known to shimmer with a creosote film. About 20 feet of the point’s eastern shore has shown signs of seepage for years.

The area was not capped because aggressive waves would likely wash away a protective layer, according to the EPA.

For more information, call EPA project manager Joe Wallace at 553-4470.

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