How did we get here?

EPA’s final “Record of Decision” (ROD) is the culmination of 13 years of research and discussion. DRCC/TAG has been a part of each step, ensuring that this final decision cleanup reflects the values and interests of the community. How we arrived at a river that is contaminated and in need of cleanup, however, goes back much further than that. Here is a look back at key points that brought us to today:


October 14, 1913 – The process of straightening the Duwamish River begins, with twenty million cubic yards of mud and sand are moved to fill the river bends and deepen the main channel for shipping. With the river straightened and dredged to become a navigable waterway, the landscape quickly fills with concrete factories, shipping terminals, and wrecking yards.

May 9, 1917 – The Boeing Company is formed and begins production in the “Red Barn” on the Duwamish River.

1936: The second Boeing Company river facility is built (Plant 2). Production is moved to this new site.

1937: Duwamish Manufacturing Company begins using the site now called Terminal 117 to produce asphalt.

1942: The original industrial site now owned by Jorgensen Forge Corporation is developed.

September 9, 1958: King County voters approve the creation of an agency to build a regional sewage treatment system. 11 Combined Sewer Overflows are installed to discharge untreated overflows of sewage and stormwater into the river.

1978: Duwamish Manufacturing Company replaced by Malarkey Asphalt Company (then called Malarkey, Chance, and Wyborney (MCW) Inc) at Terminal 117. Asphalt production continues.

1991: City of Seattle and King County settled with the federal government for damages to public natural resources from the city and county’s combined sewer overflows. This settlement included cleanup at the Duwamish/Diagonal CSO.

1993: Asphalt production stops at Terminal 117.

1993: The Duwamish/Diagonal sediment cleanup project begins. Over the next few years, many dangerous contaminants of concern are found on the site.

1999: Terminal 117 is acquired by Port of Seattle.

December 2000: EPA signs an agreement with the Lower Duwamish Waterway Group – made up of Boeing, City of Seattle, King County, and the Port of Seattle – to fund investigation of waterway contamination and evaluate cleanup alternatives.

2001: A King County report recommends a cleanup of 4.8 acres of sediment at the Duwamish/Diagonal site. The cleanup project is eventually expanded to 7 acres to account for a contaminated “hot spot” area upstream.

September 2001: The legacy of 100 years of industry along with the discharge of 11 combined sewer overflows and 200 storm drains leads to EPA declaring the area a Superfund site, contaminated with over 40 chemicals above recommended levels for human health.

June 2003: Five areas along the Duwamish River were identified as Early Action Areas, based on the high risks to people or wildlife in and around the river. With this designation, cleanups and studies were scheduled for these areas.

November 2003: Cleanup begins at Duwamish/Diagonal Combined Sewer Overflow and Storm Drain, the first Early Action Area. On Day 3, the project was shut down due to violations of environmental regulations reported by DRCC to King County and EPA. Over the following 3 months, due to “messy” dredging and poor operator skill, this project would violate water quality standards measuring suspended sediments on nearly 50% of the days they were dredging in the river.

March 2004: Partial cleanup of the Duwamish/Diagonal Early Action Area is completed.

2004-2006: Additional PCB contamination discovered in and around the Terminal 117 site.

February 2005: Follow up cleanup at the Duwamish/Diagonal Early Action Area is conducted. A thin layer of sand is added over the contaminated area to accelerate natural recovery.

2006: EPA selects cleanup plan for the Slip 4 Early Action Area.

2007: Cleanup at Early Action Areas is delayed because of recontamination of sites from upland sources of PCBs. With this discovery, there is need to develop a plan for controlling these sources before cleanup began. The Department of Ecology discovers that sources of PCB pollution are not adequately controlled to protect the Slip 4 cleanup area. EPA and Boeing later implement a system that treats stormwater draining into Slip 4 from Boeing Field, allowing the cleanup to proceed.

2007: As a result of DRCC/TAG and the community working together, using their voices to advocate for a cleanup that benefits all, the Port of Seattle determines that the T117 site will be changed from an industrial site to a public access habitat site. As a result, a revised cleanup plan is needed.

November 2007: The investigation of the extent, distribution, and risks caused by toxic pollution in the river sediments is completed. The Remedial Investigation or “RI” report is released and includes results of sampling in the river, maps of chemicals found in the river bottom, information on risks to the environment and human health, and identification of ongoing sources of pollution.

2009: The Duwamish Valley Vision and Map is developed through a series of community workshops, interviews, and surveys with over 500 Duwamish Valley residents, workers, business owners, industrial leaders, youth, elders, recreational visitors, fisherman, and homeless constituents. The result is a vision of the community’s aspirations, providing a road map for the work ahead.

April 2009: LDWG releases draft Feasibility Study (FS). The FS evaluates the Superfund site as a whole and proposes multiple remedial alternatives for cleanup.

2010: The final Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) for the Terminal 117 site is released to the public for comment. The Final Action Memorandum is also issued this year, outlining the approved cleanup design.

2010: Potentially Responsible Parties for the cleanup propose six alternatives for EPA’s consideration. DRCC/TAG determines that these all stop short of providing enough cleanup to prevent cancer, reproductive, developmental, and other health risks to people most exposed to the river’s pollution. DRCC/TAG’s assessment includes an environmental justice review and fact sheet. Learn more.

2011: Boeing Plant 2 is demolished.

October 3, 2011: Cleanup construction on the Slip 4 Early Action Area begins.

August 2011: EPA releases a Final Decision and Response to Comments for the cleanup of Boeing Plant 2.

February 7, 2012: Construction on the Slip 4 Early Action Area is completed. Approximately 9,800 cubic yards of sediment, 3,278 tons of concrete, and 130 tons of treated timber debris was removed. Read more here.

October 2012: EPA involves Duwamish River communities in the Superfund Job Training Initiative (SuperJTI) program. The program provides community members with skills and certifications to work on the Duwamish River Superfund site. Learn more here.

2013: Crews carry out cleanup of nearby contaminated residential yards around Terminal 117.

January 2013: Boeing begins implementation of sediment cleanup at Boeing Plant 2.

February 28, 2013: EPA releases the Proposed Plan for the cleanup of the Duwamish River. Over the next 105 days, DRCC/TAG, in partnership with EPA and the community, hold five (5) public hearings and 16 unconventional public meetings; present 25 times in the community; and hold five (5) other events. And the results are staggering:

  • 1300 attend public hearings, public meetings, and more.
  • Over 2300 comments in 10 different languages are collected and submitted!Learn more about this work here.

2013: The University of Washington School of Public Health, Just Health Action and DRCC/TAG work together to perform a “Health Impact Assessment” of EPA’s Proposed Plan. The report examines the possible benefits and consequences of EPA’s proposed cleanup plan, focused on four vulnerable populations. It also provides recommendations to minimize health impacts, maximize benefits, and reduce inequities. Learn more.

February 2013: EPA conducts and releases an Environmental Justice Analysis of the cleanup option after DRCC/TAG’s request. The intention is to examine whether the remaining burdens would be fair or would inequitably impact vulnerable communities.

June 2013: Ecology and Jorgensen Forge amend the existing Agreed Order (legal agreement) for the Jorgensen Forge Site to include interim cleanup actions. These cleanup actions focuse on reducing site contamination and preventing the spread of contamination during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s nearby cleanup activities.

June 2013: 14 men and women graduate from the EPA’s Superfund Job Training Initiative (SuperJTI) program.

2014: River sediment cleanup and upland cleanup is carried out as part of Terminal 117 cleanup efforts.

2014: River For All Campaign launches, and well known hip-hop artist Macklemore participates.

December 2014: EPA’s Final Record of Decision on the Superfund cleanup is released.

2015: Cleanup of Boeing Plant 2 is completed.

March 2015: Department of Ecology issues Enforcement Order for the Jorgensen Forge Site, which requires the owner corporation to complete a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) for the site.

May 31, 2016: City workers remove the last of the PCB-contaminated soils from the streets adjacent to Terminal 117.