Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Seattle Port to Tackle Polluted Terminal

One of the most polluted areas of the Lower Duwamish Waterway will be cleaned up as a result of a $33 million settlement agreement among the Port of Seattle, City of Seattle and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The terms of the agreement require the port and city to implement EPA’s cleanup decision for the Terminal 117 early action area of the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site. The EPA described the agreement as a "major milestone that secures the cleanup of marine sediments next to the terminal, the former industrial facility on terminal property and ten acres of soil in nearby streets and residential areas."

The Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund site is a 5.5-mile stretch of the Duwamish River that flows into Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington. The waterway is flanked by industrial corridors, as well as the South Park and Georgetown neighborhoods. The site was added to EPA's National Priorities List in 2001.

Through a century of heavy use, the EPA said the waterway was contaminated with toxic chemicals from many sources – industries along its banks, stormwater pipes, and runoff from upland activities, streets and roads. Pollutants in the sediments include polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, dioxins/furans, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or cPAHs, and arsenic.

The EPA said that many of these chemicals stay in the environment for a long time, and have built up to unsafe levels in the river’s resident fish and shellfish. Because of this contamination, state and local health departments warn against eating resident crab, shellfish, or bottom-feeding fish (but not salmon, which move quickly through the waterway) from the Lower Duwamish.

The Port of Seattle purchased Terminal 117 in 2000 following six decades of asphalt product production, particularly roofing shingles, by two small businesses. In the 1970s, the city supplied the owner with inexpensive used fuel oil. Much of this fuel oil came from city’s electrical utility equipment and contained poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a hazardous substance that can be harmful to human health and the environment. Since 2000, the Port of Seattle has implemented several cleanup actions. The latest round of funding is expected to complete the cleanup of the terminal.

“We now have an enforceable agreement in place to clean up one of the most contaminated sites on the waterway,” Associate Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Cleanup Lori Cohen said.

“The city and port stepped up and joined us in a commitment for a cleaner, safer Duwamish River. This translates into benefits for Puget Sound, where cleaning up contaminated marine sediments is a priority.”

Terminal 117 was designated an early action area of the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site because of the high level of nearby contaminated sediment in the waterway due to years of industrial activity.

The Port of Seattle and City of Seattle will conduct the Terminal 117 cleanup with EPA oversight. The new agreement outlines the obligations for the full cleanup and launches the cleanup design process, which is scheduled to be complete at the end of 2012. After the design is finalized, the port will initiate a bidding process for contractors to complete the work.