Superfund Info

Final Cleanup Plan (“Record of Decision”)

As a result of nearly a century of industrial activity, the Duwamish River was designated a Superfund Site by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2001, identifying it as one of the nation’s most toxic hazardous waste sites. With this designation comes the mandate that it will be cleaned. A total of 5.5 miles of the Duwamish River and 412 acres was identified to be cleaned up. This led to two different groups being formed – the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group (LDWG), made up of potentially responsible parties (PRPs), and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG), to serve as the community advisory group in the cleanup of the Duwamish River.

Since then, EPA has worked with these groups, agencies, and a diverse range of communities to study pollution in the river, its effect on people’s health and the environment, and several possible alternatives for cleanup. Following a proposed cleanup plan released in 2013, the Final Cleanup Plan or EPA’s “Record of Decision” (ROD) was released in December 2014. This plan details what types of technologies will be used to clean up different levels of contamination as well as the extent of the river’s cleanup. See also our Final Cleanup Plan Community Fact Sheet and EPA’S 2014 ROD Fact Sheet.

What does Superfund mean?

1446Superfund is the name of a federal law that requires the nation’s most toxic hazardous waste sites to be identified and cleaned up.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the role of ensuring the cleanup of these sites.
Superfund is part of the the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The law was passed by Congress in 1980.

Why was the Duwamish River designated as a Superfund Site?

In 2001, the lower Duwamish River was added to the EPA’s national Superfund list. The river’s muddy bottom includes high levels of toxic sediment, a result of the river’s long history of industrial use and the continued pollution from stormwater runoff and Combined Sewer Overflow events.

As a result of this pollution, over 40 hazardous substances were found in river sediments at concentrations unsafe to human health. Contaminants of concern (which refers to those specifically identified as harmful to the health of humans or wildlife in the area) include PCBs, dioxins, arsenic, and cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (CPAHs). The goal of long-term cleanup of the Duwamish River is to protect the river environment, its fish and wildlife, and human health by reducing the levels of these toxins.

The greatest health risks are to people who eat seafood from the river, with some risk related to people who have frequent contact with its mud. It is now known that resident fish and shellfish from the Duwamish River are not safe to eat, and that even salmon passing through the river must be eaten in moderation. Please see the Washington State Department of Health’s Fish Consumption Advisory page (scroll down to Duwamish River section).

The river has also been listed for cleanup by Washington State under the “state Superfund” or Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). You can see the Washington State Department of Ecology’s page on the Duwamish Cleanup here.

Learn more about this Superfund site by exploring the links below, which can also be found in the menu on the left side.

River History and Photographs – A short section on the history of the Duwamish River, including a gallery of modern and historical photographs of the Duwamish Valley.

Timeline – A timeline of key events that paints a picture of why our river needs to be cleaned up and the steps that have been taken so far.

Early Action Areas – Information and updates about the cleanup of Early Action Areas along the Duwamish River including Slip 4, Terminal 117, Boeing Plant 2, Duwamish/Diagonal, and Jorgensen Forge.

Proposed Cleanup Plan – A page with information about the EPA’s 2013 Proposed Cleanup Plan and the public comments that helped shape it into the Final Cleanup Plan.

Final Cleanup Plan and What’s Next – An overview of EPA’s Final Cleanup Plan called the Record of Decision. Also includes a timeline of the cleanup process going forward.

DRCC/TAG’s Role in the Cleanup Process – A look at DRCC/TAG’s mission and the unique role we play in the Superfund cleanup process.

More Information – Resource pages with links to additional information about programs like Superfund and MTCA. Also includes links to reports, plans, focus and fact sheets, and technical documents.

Glossary – A glossary of terms and acronyms related to the Superfund cleanup of the Duwamish River.