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EPA releases final Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund cleanup plan

Release Date: 12/02/2014
Contact Information: Hanady Kader, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-0454, kader.hanady@epa.gov

Plan results in 90 percent pollution reduction and builds on work by community, local governments and businesses

(Seattle—Dec. 2, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the final cleanup plan for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site, a major industrial waterway that includes the mouth of the Duwamish River on the south end of Elliott Bay.

As part of the cleanup plan, the Washington State Department of Ecology will continue leading source control efforts that reduce incoming pollution to the river and support the EPA in-waterway cleanup.

“This is a momentous day in the history of the Duwamish River,” said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. “The Duwamish serves as the region’s industrial backbone and it is home to tribes and vibrant communities. Today we celebrate the river’s history and look to a healthier future for the Duwamish with a cleanup plan that provides habitat, recreation, and a future of economic vitality.”

The cleanup plan will remove 90 percent of pollution in the river with active cleanup of 177 acres by dredging, capping, and other methods. The remaining low levels of contamination will be addressed by the river’s natural processes bringing in clean sediments to cover the contamination. The cleanup timeframe is estimated to be 17 years with an estimated cost of $342 million, with seven years of active cleanup and 10 years of natural recovery.

Industrial activity, stormwater, and combined sewer overflows have polluted the Lower Duwamish Waterway surface water and sediments over the past 100 years. Over 40 hazardous substances were found in sediments at concentrations that pose a risk to people and marine life. Resident Duwamish fish and shellfish, which are consumed by local communities, accumulate contaminants that are harmful to human health. The primary contaminants of concern are PCBs, dioxins/furans, arsenic and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

As a result of early action work already underway, pollution in Duwamish surface sediments will be reduced by 50 percent in 2015. The City of Seattle, King County, the Port of Seattle, Boeing, and Earle M. Jorgensen recognized the need for a healthier Duwamish River and stepped up to do the work in parts of the river that contained the most contamination. The early action areas for cleanup are Slip 4, Terminal 117, Boeing Plant 2, Jorgensen Forge, and the Duwamish Diagonal and Norfolk combined sewer overflows. EPA used scientific studies completed by these parties to determine the extent of contamination and develop a final cleanup plan.

“Local governments and businesses have done a tremendous job of addressing hot spots in the river before we even had a final cleanup plan,” said McLerran. “We tip our hats to them for the work they’ve done and are pleased to release a plan that builds on their accomplishments. Early action cleanup projects are a testament to this community’s commitment to make the Duwamish cleaner as soon as possible.”

The cleanup plan and all the previous work to clean up the Duwamish will make the waterway less toxic to resident fish, shellfish and other food-chain organisms, resulting in fish that will be safer to eat. The Duwamish River is a source of food and recreation for local residents, including minority and low-income residents, as well as tribal and commercial fishers who rely on the river for their livelihoods.

The source control effort, coordinated by Ecology in cooperation with local governments and other parties, currently involves managing 30 state and federal cleanups along or near the waterway. In addition, Ecology is assessing pollution sources throughout the 480 square mile Green-Duwamish watershed to support and enhance the EPA in-waterway cleanup and Ecology’s source control strategy.

“We are very supportive of moving the cleanup plan forward to improve the health of the Duwamish,” said Maia Bellon, Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology. “Ecology is committed to doing our part on source control, which is critical for the EPA-led sediment cleanup and also helps meet our agencies’ longer-term clean water goals to reduce toxic threats to marine life and people.”

The cleanup also dovetails with the recently announced strategy from King County and the City of Seattle to coordinate cleanup work and enhancements across the Green/Duwamish corridor, from the Cascade Crest to Elliott Bay.

In developing the final cleanup plan, EPA engaged community members, local businesses, tribal governments and other stakeholders each step of the way. EPA considered the comments it received and incorporated changes into the final cleanup plan based on the feedback. Specifically, the final plan calls for more dredging and a commitment to work with waterway users to ensure the cleanup is compatible with all uses where possible.

The Duwamish River drains into Puget Sound, and this cleanup will add to a long line of previous cleanups that support Puget Sound protection. For Pacific Northwest tribes in particular, Puget Sound and the Duwamish River are a link to their culture, history, and tradition that goes back thousands of years.

For more information on the final cleanup plan for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site, please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r10/cleanup.nsf/sites/lduwamish