The Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe is cleaning up Point Julia, where its ancestors used to live, cook and celebrate. While there are no more homes on the point, it’s still used for ceremonies and launching fishing boats. However, it looks much different than it did 100 years ago.
Derelict boats and trailer sit near the wetlands. A rusting barge with peeling paint is perched on the beach near a creek that flows into the bay. Chemicals may have leached from the old mill site across the bay and infiltrated the water and sediment. Fishing and shellfishing have been shut down in parts of the bay because of pollutants.
“The tribe wants to make Point Julia a safer place for the community while supporting a clean and healthy environment,” said Jessica Coyle, the tribe’s Tribal Response Program Manager.
Using Environmental Protection Agency Brownsfield Grants, the tribe is assessing Point Julia in two phases. The first phase is a visual investigation of the land and possible causes of contamination. It includes a historical assessment, such as hiring an archeologist and interviewing elders to learn about previous land use.
The second phase, a chemical investigation, includes testing for pollutants. A report will be available in March from the 100 soil samples that were taken from the point in January. The tribe expects to find metals, dioxides, fuel and byproducts from wood burning and the mill site. From there, the tribe will put together a cleanup and redevelopment plan for the community.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll find contaminants around the pier – you can just see the creosote dripping from the old dock,” Coyle said. “And we know there is work that needs to be done. The tribal community wants to build a new boat launch, new picnic shelters and educational kiosks explaining the history of the area – respecting it the way it should be.”