Duwamish Waterway cleanup options released for public review

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SEATTLE, WA, Oct. 18, 2010 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology today released a draft study of cleanup alternatives for the 5-mile-long Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup site. The agencies are seeking public input on a wide range of cleanup options to reduce toxic pollutants in the waterway. The public can review and comment on the cleanup alternatives online at www.ldwg.org, by mail or email, or at one of several upcoming public workshops and meetings through December 23.

The cleanup is needed to address pollution in the waterway that has occurred from a century of heavy industrial use. Sources of the pollution include industries along the waterway and stormwater runoff from upland activities, streets and roads. Pollutants in the sediments include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and furans, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (cPAHs), arsenic and other chemicals. Many of these chemicals stay in the environment for a long time and have built up to unsafe levels in the waterway's sediment and in the fish and shellfish that live in the waterway all year long. Because of this pollution, state and local health departments warn against eating Duwamish Waterway crab, shellfish, or bottom-feeding fish (but not salmon, which move quickly through the waterway).

The study of cleanup options released today, called a Feasibility Study, compares a range of alternatives to clean up the waterway to reduce risks for people and animals, and to be consistent with federal and state cleanup standards. The cleanup alternatives combine several methods to deal with polluted sediments -- dredging and removing them, covering them with engineered caps, and harnessing the natural flow of sediments from up-river to cover less-polluted areas over time. The study explains what the alternatives are predicted to accomplish, and it compares the pros and cons of various combinations of cleanup methods, including costs and construction timelines.

EPA and Ecology jointly oversee the cleanup study. The study was prepared by a group called the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group, consisting of the City of Seattle, King County, Port of Seattle, and Boeing. Working together, and with input from the community, they studied the pollution in the waterway and identified cleanup options. Those are the cleanup alternatives available now for public review. They are also moving ahead with early cleanup of some of the most polluted areas. Two early cleanups were conducted and three more are under way.

Reducing pollutants entering the waterway is also a priority to avoid new contamination and to minimize the recontamination of cleaned-up areas. Ecology and EPA work with the city, the county, the port, and property owners to investigate and control pollution sources throughout the Duwamish Waterway drainage basin.

EPA and Ecology are sharing information and seeking input on the cleanup alternatives from interested residents, neighborhoods, and businesses this fall.

Public meetings are scheduled for Dec. 7 at Concord Elementary School in South Park and Dec. 9 at South Seattle Community College in Georgetown, info at: www.epa.gov/region10/duwamish.html

Public input on the cleanup alternatives can be submitted through Dec. 23 to r10Lowerduwamish@epa.gov or online at www.ldwg.org.

The Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, the Community Advisory Group for the site, will host public workshops on the cleanup alternatives in South Park, Georgetown and West Seattle in November. To get involved, contact: www.duwamishcleanup.org.

EPA and Ecology will use public input about the cleanup alternatives to finalize the study and develop a proposed cleanup plan. The proposed cleanup plan will be issued for public review and comment early in 2012. EPA's decision on the final cleanup plan, after seeking concurrence from Ecology, is expected in 2013.

More information about the Lower Duwamish Waterway cleanup is available at: www.epa.gov/region10/duwamish.html

Information on Ecology's efforts to address ongoing sources of pollution to the waterway is available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/sites/lower_duwamish/lower_duwamish_hp.html.

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