$342 Million to Clean Duwamish River Superfund Site: EPA Finalizes Plan

The EPA has released a $342 million cleanup plan for the lower Duwamish River, 14 years after it was declared a Superfund site.
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After 14 years of study the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a $342 million plan for cleaning up most of the pollution in the lower Duwamish River.

The goal is to make the waterway as healthy as possible, in hopes that people may once again be able to eat resident fish they catch there, though authorities admitted that was doubtful, according to InvestigateWest.

An estimated 177 acres will be actively cleaned up at the Superfund site, the EPA said in a fact sheet, 105 acres of it dredged and capped either fully or partially. About 960,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment would be “dredged and disposed in an upland permitted landfill,” the EPA said. In addition 24 acres would be capped and 48 acres would be subject to “enhanced natural recovery,” which means “placing a clean sand or dirt layer to speed up recovery of contaminated sediments,” the EPA said.

While dredging is more costly than mere capping, it is a more effective cleanup method, reported KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio on the news website Earthfix.

Several entities will share the cost of the 17-year-long cleanup plan, those deemed most responsible for the pollution that has been building up in and saturating the river for more than 100 years: Boeing, King County, the city of Seattle and the Port of Seattle, according to the Seattle Times.

“I think we’re delivering a plan that is as aggressive a plan as can be done,” said Dennis McLerran, EPA Region 10 administrator, to the Seattle Times. “This is a carefully thought through, technically sound approach that we believe will leave us with the cleanest possible river we can get.”

But some environmental groups said the initiative doesn’t go far enough, though it’s an improvement over a draft released earlier this year.

“This decision removes more toxic waste than previously proposed—that helps to reduce the long term risks to the river and to the people who live and fish here,” said James Rasmussen, a Duwamish Tribal Council member who is also with the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, in a statement provided to The South Park News. “However, what EPA is requiring does not go far enough—people’s health will still suffer unless we do more.”

RELATED: Reclaiming the Duwamish River: A Conversation With James Rasmussen

However, Rasmussen added, the plan does contain some flexibility that would allow it to go deeper.

“The good news is that EPA’s order opens the door to do just that,” Rasmussen said. “With each phase of the cleanup, this decision gives us the opportunity to go further, and protect people’s health better. It is now up to our local elected governments to be proactive, and take action to fully protect our river and our health.

The current plan was winnowed down from 11 options presented by the EPA at the end of 2011.

RELATED: EPA Offers Duwamish River Cleanup Options