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Fast Facts: King County supports Superfund cleanup

Summary

King County is a neighbor, service provider and representative to the people who live and work in communities around the Lower Duwamish Waterway.

Story

King County is a neighbor, service provider and representative to the people who live and work in communities around the Lower Duwamish Waterway.

EPA’s proposal to clean up the Lower Duwamish has been a major topic of discussion, and we’re pleased that so many people are taking time to get involved and make their voice heard.

A few opinions, however, seem to misrepresent King County’s position on the cleanup and its commitment to the health and protection of the Lower Duwamish Waterway.

Commitment to environmental standards

It’s important to clarify King County’s commitment to meet environmental standards, particularly those outlined in EPA’s cleanup plan.

King County fully supports a cleanup plan that protects people who rely on the Duwamish for work, recreation and fishing. We also commit to restoring and repairing environmentally damaged areas.

While EPA’s plan is a good start, we believe it can be made better. In fact, we believe the cleanup could be completed two years sooner and still achieve the same overall environmental result as all other alternatives currently proposed.

The sooner we get started, the sooner everyone benefits, including people who fish from the river and communities that will be affected by major construction activity.  

Achievable goals are crucial

EPA’s proposed plan calls for standards that are unattainable and technically impossible in an urban area. The plan calls for fish tissue contamination levels that are lower than those in many common foods, including eggs, butter, canned tuna and popcorn.

None of the proposed remedies can achieve these levels. There is no clarity about how this will be addressed in the future, and what happens to King County and its taxpayers when we don’t meet the standard.

King County is very committed to a clean environment while setting achievable goals and being honest about what’s possible.

Clean as Lake Washington

What we do know now is that once cleanup is completed, contaminant concentrations in fish and shellfish are expected to be similar to those in other urban waterways, such as Elliott Bay and Lake Washington.

King County will also continue its work on controlling new and ongoing sources of pollution that continues to reach our waters and affect human health, and continue to explore ways to attain the community’s vision to be able to safely consume unlimited quantities of seafood.

Still, according to state and local health authorities, fish consumption advisories are expected to remain in place in all of our urban waterways for the foreseeable future.

More dredging, more impacts, more cost  – no additional environmental benefit

Another point of concern is how cleanup is carried out. King County is concerned about extensive dredging and the potential to kick up and re-suspend contaminants, exposing the community to additional health and quality of life impacts, especially in vulnerable populations who fish.

Risks to people who eat resident seafood will not be reduced until construction is completed. This is why we think it’s so important to the health of our communities to get the cleanup done at least as fast as the seven years EPA proposes and ideally sooner. Extensive dredging could last for decades.

But more dredging does not make the river “cleaner,” nor does it increase the amount of fish that can be safely eaten. A cleanup that is more costly does not attain a higher level of risk reduction. That is simply a false promise.

People, the environment, jobs – a successful cleanup protects all three

People, the environment, and jobs are all top priorities for our region and important factors in a reasonable, achievable cleanup. King County recognizes the environment and economy are intertwined. The reason we attract top talent and business investment is because our region has such an enviable quality of life.

Eight percent of King County’s employment is based in the Lower Duwamish industrial corridor. Protecting family-wage jobs is also an equity and social justice issue.

A faster, safer Superfund cleanup is part of a broader strategy to protect human health, safeguard 100,000 family-wage industrial jobs and promote environmental justice for the people who live and work nearby.

The Lower Duwamish Waterway is an economic engine, regional icon and vital transportation corridor we all have a stake in cleaning it up.

To learn more about King County and its role in Lower Duwamish cleanup, please visit www.kingcounty.gov/ourduwamish.

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