Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge
Evaluation of Cleanup Activities on an
Adjacent Wood Treatment Facility
Bandon Marsh  Photo: USFWS Ore. State OfficeBandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in Coos County, Oregon, along the west bank of the Coquille River, approximately 1 mile upstream from the mouth of the river.  Established in 1983, with 304 acres, it is one of the largest of the few remaining salt marsh ecosystems along the Oregon Coast and provides important marsh and estuarine habitat for migrating shorebirds, waterfowl, and anadromous fish.  Portions of the refuge are also used by the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) the California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), and the bald eagleBald Eagle Photo: USFWS Oregon State Office (Haliaeetus  leucocephalus). Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is next to an abandoned wood treatment facility, formally owned by Moore Mill and Lumber Company (Moore Lumber), that was cited for contaminant-related operational deficiencies several times during the course of its operation.  Beginning its operation in 1909, the mill disposed of wastes at the dump site until its closure in 1986.  The dump site covers approximately 10 to 15 acres with an average depth of 8 to 10 feet.  Part of the dump site is inundated by tidal flows on a daily basis.  The dump contains phenol and other wood preservative products, treated wood, fill materials and miscellaneous debris.  During the mills operation, chemical spills and poor wood treatment procedures were noted. In 1985, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) collected soil and water samples at the mill and found elevated concentrations of several phenol compounds.  Both Tetrachlorophenol (TCP) and Pentachlorophenols (PCP) were detected in soil and wood waste samples.  Because elevated levels of these contaminants were found, ODEQ recommended that additional sampling and monitoring be conducted on the site.  Moore Lumber closed the sawmill in 1986, citing economic reasons.  At the time of closure, no assessment activities had been initiated.  In 1986,  a revised assessment proposal by Riedel Environmental Services, Inc. was submitted by Moore Lumber.  In August of 1987, a fire destroyed the sawmill.  Following the fire, Ecology and Environmental, Inc. Technical Assistance Team (TAT), sent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency former lumber mill site  Photo:  USFWS Ore. State OfficeSuperfund Response and Investigations Sections, and Riedel (Contracted by Moore Lumber) conducted independent site assessments at the former Moore Lumber facilities.  Riedel installed three shallow monitoring wells to assess the seasonal impact of contaminants on subsurface water.  Results of water and sediment samples indicated that phenolic compounds were moving into the estuary.  Dioxin and furan compounds were also detected on the premises.  Although both groups found decreased levels of phenolic compounds relative to the 1985 sampling, certain areas of the property still contained measurable or elevated concentrations of contaminants.  The Ecology and Environment TAT determined that the site did not warrant emergency removal actions under Superfund, but they expressed concern over the uncontrolled nature of the site.  Since TAT noted that phenolic compounds were migrating into the estuary primarily from either surface runoff or infiltration,  there was concern that waste products at the dump site could pose a threat to the refuge and to natural resources in the area. In 1990, chemical drums were found by US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel on top of the dump.  One of these drums was labeled 'contains chlorinated hydrocarbons'.  Water on top of the dump was discolored and draining off the dump onto the surrounding mudflat.  Due to these observations and knowledge of the past practices, the potential for contaminants draining off the dump and onto the refuge was suspected.

Bandon Marsh NWR white stained rivulets   Photo: USFWS Ore. State OfficeThe purpose of this investigation was to determine if monitoring and cleanup activities following the facility's closure were adequate to protect  fish and wildlife and whether additional cleanup actions are needed.  Surface water and sediment samples were collected from six sites; clam tissue was collected from four sites.  Two sampling sites furthest from the dump site on the refuge  were used as reference sites.  Chemical analyses included scans for trace elements, organochlorine pesticides, total and congener-specific polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and furans, polyaromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, total petroleum hydrocarbons, and pentachlorophenol.

Bandon Marsh NWR Cleanup Project- Clamming-  USFWS Ore.State OfficeElevated concentrations of several trace elements were observed in water, sediment and tissue samples.  Cadmium chromium, iron, lead, and nickel concentrations in water samples exceeded Federal and State freshwater or marine chronic criteria for the protection of aquatic life.  Trace element concentrations in the intermediate sediment sample were generally greater than those in sediments associated with the refuge or dump.  Sediment concentrations of arsenic, chromium, and nickel concentrations in the intermediate sample exceeded most guidelines.  Barium concentrations in one dump sediment sample slightly exceeded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.  Copper and iron concentrations were elevated relative to sediment criteria used by the Ontario Ministry of Environment.  The distribution of trace elements in water and sediment samples suggests that there are localized areas in which contaminants may pose a threat to fish and wildlife, though the dump does not appear to be the source.  Sixteen trace elements were detected in clam tissue samples, however, few guidelines were available to assist in the interpretation of these residue levels.  In general, water and sediment organochlorine (OC) pesticide concentrations did not appear to be at levels harmful to aquatic resources, yet the presence of these compounds in water indicated a relatively recent exposure.  Tissue concentrations of heptachlor epoxide and total DDT in dump samples exceeded their respective criteria and may represent a hazard to fish and wildlife using the area.  Bandon Marsh Cleanup Project   Photo: USFWS Ore. State OfficeThe presence and distribution of organochlorine pesticides in water and tissue samples indicated the dump was the probable contaminant source.  Although the concentrations of total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in sediment were negligible, total PCB residues in water and tissue samples were well above available guidelines.  Bioaccumulation of total PCBs in animal tissue could present a serious threat to fish and wildlife resources.  Total PCB concentrations were found in tissue from all sampling locations, with dump samples being 5 to 8 times higher than those from the refuge.  This pattern of contamination suggests a potential movement from the dump location. Detection limits used in the analysis of congener-specific PCBs in water were above recommended guidelines for freshwater and marine systems.  Any detection of congener-specific PCBs in water samples suggests a potential hazard to aquatic organisms.

Results from this investigation indicate that total PCBs and some OC pesticides are moving from the dump to adjacent areas.  Confirmation sampling, further characterization of the former Moore Mill dump site, and remediation activities are necessary to adequately protect aquatic life from impacts associated with these contaminants in the water.  This report recommends that acquisition of the tidelands south of the existing refuge boundary for incorporation into the refuge should continue to be postponed until the source of the contamination can be determined and remediated.

Sampling Area MapLearn more by reading the following full report:

Buck, J.A., C.M. Henson, R.L. Lowe, E.M. Sproul, and C.M. Thomas.   Evaluation of Cleanup Activities on an Adjacent Wood Treatment Facility. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1997.

Visit these sites regarding Bandon Marsh:

Bandon Marsh NWR Proposed Ni-les'tun Unit Addition

Concerned Citizens Protecting the Coquille River and Estuary

Coast Range Ecoregion -Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge Ni-LesíTun Addition

Return to the Portland Field Office Reports

Visit the: Pacific Region - Environmental Contaminants-Investigating and Monitoring

Visit the: USFWS- Pacific Region Ecological Services Home Page