EPA Releases $305M Draft Clean Up Plan For Seattle's Duwamish River

Feb 27, 2013

For over a decade, state and federal agencies have been trying to figure out how to clean up Seattle’s Duwamish River. The Duwamish was declared a superfund site in 2001. It’s contaminated with dioxins, PCBs and other hazardous chemicals left over from years of industrial use. The Environmental Protection Agency has just released their proposed plan for public review.

The EPA’s proposed plan will cost $305 million and take seven years, minimum, to complete. The Boeing Corporation, the Port of Seattle and other responsible parties will cover the cost.

If the plan is approved, 790,000 cubic yards of contaminated muck will be dredged from the bottom of the Duwamish. That’s about 6,200 semi-trucks. It will then be sent to a landfill in Oregon.

Other contaminated areas of the river will be capped off. The plan will also require follow-up monitoring and outreach.

Stephanie Jones-Stebbins is the director of environmental planning for the Port of Seattle.

“We’ve been studying this river for more than 12 years so we are ready to get started on cleaning up this river," Jones-Stebbins.

Right now it’s not safe to eat flounder and other resident fish and shellfish caught in the Duwamish, though some people do. The proposed clean up plan would reduce contamination in the river by 90 percent, but the EPA says those fish still won’t be guaranteed safe to eat.

BJ Cummings is the director of the Duwamish River Clean Up Coalition. She says the EPA’s proposed plan has a lot of potential but there’s room for improvement, particularly around public health.

“There are even some questions about whether it will fully protect the health of people who are using the beaches along the river, even if they don’t fish," Cummings says. "This is our one shot and we need to protect everybody’s health.”

The public has until mid June to make comments on the proposed plan. Then the EPA will review those comments and make a final decision. The actual clean up should get started by 2018.

Copyright 2013 KUOW