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Duwamish River Cleanup Gets a Big Boost from EPA

Updated: Jun 2

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized an aggressive $401 million plan to reduce the amount of pollution in Seattle’s East Waterway, one of two inlets that connect Puget Sound to the Duwamish River.

This "Interim Record of Decision" is part of the ongoing strategy to clean up the Harbor Island Superfund site. Before a definitive plan was in place for the East Waterway, the EPA was considering softening the requirements for cleaning up this mile-long section of the river. After years of Duwamish Valley community outcry, and a lot of work by advocacy organizations including the Duwamish River Community Coalition, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and the Duwamish Tribe, the EPA finally chose the more stringent cleanup option this week.

The EPA identified several chemicals in the East Waterwayꟷincluding PCBs, arsenic, and dioxinsꟷthat pose risks to humans and wildlife. PCBs in particular accumulate in fish and shellfish and pollute the food web attached to Seattle's only river. The newly announced cleanup will aim to lower contaminant levels to two parts per billion from today's average of 460 parts per billion. The Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle and King County will be responsible for conducting the cleanup.

The project will take about 10 years and include removal of 960,000 cubic yards of heavily contaminated sediment from 99 acres, cleaning of 12 acres under docks and piers, capping seven acres of sediment and current pollution-source elimination.

For more information on the East Waterway, visit the EPA's Harbor Island website.

It will take 10 years to remove nearly 1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the Duwamish River's East Waterway.

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