SEATTLE — The Environmental Protection Agency released its draft cleanup plan Wednesday for Seattle’s Duwamish River Superfund Site. It comes with a $305 million pricetag for Boeing, the Port of Seattle, and other parties responsible for the waterway’s century of pollution.
The river was declared a Superfund Site in 2001, contaminated with dioxins, PCBs and other hazardous chemicals left over from years of industrial use. For over a decade state and federal agencies have been trying to figure out how to clean it up.
If the proposed plan is approved, 790,000 cubic yards of contaminated muck will be dredged from the bottom of the Duwamish. That’s about 79,000 dump trucks. It will then be sent to a landfill in Washington or Oregon. Other contaminated areas of the river will be capped off. The plan will also require follow-up monitoring and outreach. It will take about seven years to complete.
The EPA had considered a range of potential clean up plans, with price tags ranging from $250 million to $1.2 billion.
“We’ve been studying this river for more than 12 years,” says Stephanie Jones-Stebbins, director of environmental planning for the Port of Seattle. “More money does not get you a cleaner river because all of the alternatives looked at get you to essentially the same place in the end but some of them not only have a higher cost, longer construction period and much more short term impacts because of the invasive technologies.”
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.
B.J. Cummings, policy advisor with the Duwamish River Clean Up Coalition, says the EPA’s proposed plan has a lot of potential but there’s room for improvement, particularly around public health.
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“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,” she told EarthFix. “So we need to look at those areas and figure out how we can do better. This is our one shot and we need to protect everybody’s health.”
The public has until June 13th to comment 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.
The EPA will host several public meetings about the proposed clean up plan:
Tuesday, April 30 South Seattle Community College: Georgetown 6737 Corson Ave. S, Seattle Spanish interpretation available • 3:30 p.m. – open house • 4:00 – presentation and question • 4:45 – oral comments • 6:00 – open house • 6:30 – repeat presentation and questions • 7:15 – oral comments
Wednesday, May 15 South Park Community Center 8319 8th Ave. S, Seattle This meeting will be held entirely in Spanish. English interpretation will be available. • 5:30 p.m. – presentation • 6:30 – oral comments taken in Spanish. English interpretation available
Wednesday, May 29 Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave. Seattle Spanish interpretation available • 2:00 p.m. – open house • 2:30 – presentation and questions • 3:30 – oral comments • 6:00 – open house • 6:30 – repeat presentation and questions • 7:30 – oral comments
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