Make your voice heard to ensure a clean, safe “River for All”
In 2001 the Lower Duwamish Waterway (LDW) was declared a federal Superfund site, marking it as one of the most polluted rivers in the nation. Years of toxic build up, including PCBs, arsenic, PAHs, and dioxins/furans, have left a legacy of contaminated sediments. Shellfish, crabs, and resident fish are unsafe to eat from the LDW, yet many people continue to rely on the waterway as a food source and families continue to visit shoreline beaches exposed at low tide. The river also remains a lifeline to our regional economy, supporting both the industries that line its banks and the Tribal nations who commercially fish salmon from its waters.
On February 28, 2013, after 12 years of survey and the remediation of several “Early Action Areas,” the Environmental Protection Agency released its final Proposed Cleanup Plan for the remaining contaminants in the river.
In total, the plan calls for the cleanup of 412 acres using four main technologies:
- Dredging – removal of heavily contaminated sediments
- Capping – placement of a thick layer of sand, gravel, and/or rock on top of a contaminated area
- Enhanced natural recovery – placement of a thin layer of sand (6 – 9 inches) on less contaminated sediments to facilitate natural recovery
- Monitored natural recovery – relies on natural processes to reduce toxicity, such as waiting for contaminated areas to be covered by cleaner sediment washed down from upstream
The price tag attached to the EPA’s preferred cleanup plan is $305 million. The EPA estimates that this cleanup will take 7 years to implement, with an additional 10 years of active monitoring to ensure contaminant concentrations continue to reduce to their lowest predicted levels through ongoing natural recovery. The primary parties responsible for funding the cleanup are King County, the City of Seattle, the Boeing Company, and the Port of Seattle.
Apart from the cleanup of the in-waterway portion of the Superfund site, the Department of Ecology is leading the effort to control upland sources of contamination to the Duwamish. Ecology has released a separate Draft Pollution Source Control Strategy for the lower Duwamish River to complement the EPA’s cleanup plan. The EPA plan itself, however, does not include controls on ongoing upland pollution sources so the success of Ecology’s strategy may be limited without stronger enforcement.
The Proposed Plan will not protect human health
While the EPA’s plan provides a good basis for recovery, it will not ensure the health of people who eat seafood from the river and visit the many Duwamish beaches recreationally. Contaminants of concern to human health, such as arsenic, will remain above Washington State safety standards. Dredging is the only method to ensure toxins are permanently removed, and it represents a relatively small proportion of the proposed remedial activity. The effects of natural recovery are unknown, and caps may be disrupted by flooding, earthquakes, ship accidents, or other disturbances, re-exposing buried contaminants.
In addition to local impacts on human health, the cleanup also represents an opportunity to benefit the entire Puget Sound food web by removing long-lived toxins that are making their way into salmon, bottom fish, orca whales, and even people.
Your voice is needed!
Due to the importance of Seattle’s only river to residents, industry, businesses, tribal fisheries, and wildlife, we encourage you to submit comments to the EPA to ensure that the cleanup of the Lower Duwamish Waterway is as durable and far reaching as possible. This is the big plan we have been waiting for. This is our last chance to preserve a river for all!
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 6th Avenue, Suite 900 ECL-111
Seattle, WA 98101
COMMENT DEADLINE: JUNE 13, 2013