EPA invests $290M on Duwamish River clean-up project

May 8, 2023, 10:36 AM | Updated: 11:16 am

Duwamish River oil spill...

Much of the Duwamish River in Seattle has been an industrial area for more than a century. (Feliks Banel/KIRO Radio)

(Feliks Banel/KIRO Radio)

A Seattle council member and environmental advocates highlighted some of the most toxic and polluted sites in Washington state Saturday with a boat tour of the Duwamish River as the federal government looks to invest nearly $290 million in funds to restore the habitat.

Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold joined a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and leaders of the Duwamish River Coalition to call attention to how the “Justice 40” Initiative can help clean up the toxic sites.

Boeing ‘must pay fair share’ to Duwamish cleanup says new lawsuit from Port of Seattle

The Biden Administration created the Justice 40 program to provide 40% of federal funding resources to disadvantaged communities impacted by pollution and environmental hazards.

The last five miles of the Duwamish River are considered one of the most polluted waterways in the country and was declared a Superfund site 21 years ago. This means that the EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) have designated it a toxic site that needs to be addressed.

In their study of the river, the Port has found that the polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels in the Duwamish River were nearly 500,000 times higher than PCB cleanup levels set by the EPA, which they say lead directly to the environmental toxicity and designation as a superfund site to clean it up for the past two decades.

The Washington State Department of Health warned PCBs can cause skin conditions and liver damage, and a few studies have indicated that PCBs can cause liver cancer. Animals that have ingested high amounts of PCBs have also died.

The Port of Seattle has worked with Boeing, the City of Seattle, and King County to clean up the waterway for the past two decades, and all four entities have shared the cost of that cleanup.

With the new funding from the federal government, the work is expected to take 10 years to complete.

WA, DOE agree to updated cleanup plan for Hanford Nuclear Reservation

The EPA is looking to get public feedback before they begin the cleanup process, looking to learn from the community about how they can best use the money to restore the habitat.

“Before sediment cleanup can begin, we must sufficiently control the sources of pollution to the river sediments. That means we must investigate more than 20,000 acres of land that drains into the river,” the DOE said in the announcement.

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EPA invests $290M on Duwamish River clean-up project