Wood Product Mills

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Sawmills, papermills, and lumber mills were a common feature on Salish Sea shorelines during settlement. Over time mills have consolidated to fewer, larger and more automated sites. However 100 years of industrial operations have let their mark.


  • Wood Waste topic discusses the long term dynamics of sawdust and bark blankets in saltwater environments, including suffocation of benthic communities, and release of poisonous sulfur compounds, and their resistance to decay.
  • Due to the extensive use of fossil fuels, various industrial distillates, wood preservatives and extensive burning of varied materials, once abandoned mill sites become waste sites, commonly contaminated with various petrochemicals and heavy metals. These waste sites are regulated in the USA under the state Model Toxics Control Act, and federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Generally limits of staffing and authority make cleanup a protracted process, with many sites left unaddressed.
  • Most of the sites identified in the 2009 Puget Sound Initiative are former mill sites.
  • Under US State and Federal law, Natural Resource Damage Assessments can be used to assess and seek damages for injuries to natural resources over the period of contamination at old mill sites.
  • Neither Federal or State regulators necessarily require clean up of wood waste. This may be because the local release of toxic sulfur products are a natural process resulting from permitted activities (dumping of organic fill and log rafting).