Low levels of dioxin are present in the beach sediments at Priest Point Park in Olympia, according to a Thurston County health department study conducted late last year.
The 30 sediment samples showed dioxin levels ranging from 0.091 to 4.8 parts per trillion. By comparison, a 2007 state Department of Ecology study throughout lower Budd Inlet detected a bay-wide dioxin average of 19.2 ppt.
The county conducted the $37,569 study with funds provided by Ecology after the state Department of Health and several residents asked for a more thorough study of the popular public park.
“It’s reassuring to have this news that the beaches at this park have lower levels than other areas of Budd Inlet,” said Rebecca Lawson, Ecology’s regional manager for the agency’s toxics-cleanup program.
The state health officials plan to review the data and determine whether the existing health advisory for Priest Point Park needs to be changed. The current advisory recommends people wash after contact with the water.
The beaches of lower Budd Inlet also are off-limits to shellfish harvesting, largely due to stormwater runoff and the presence of a LOTT Clean Water Alliance discharge pipe that sends treated wastewater into lower Budd Inlet.
Dioxins are a by-product of industrial activity and incomplete combustion from fires and petroleum products. They tend to persist and accumulate in the environment.
Likely sources in lower Budd Inlet include urban stormwater runoff and pollution from the old Cascade Pole treatment plant on the tip of the Port of Olympia peninsula.
Studies and research on animals exposed to high concentrations of dioxin suggest it causes cancer and contributes to reproductive and neurological health problems in humans.
Most people are exposed to generally lower levels of dioxin, typically through the food they eat, Ecology officials said.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444, firstname.lastname@example.org